With each passing year, we get another set of lists:
Startups to Watch
Founders Who Crushed It
Bald VCs in NYC You Should Pitch
When you're on the list, you're tweeting the heck out of it, very modestly of course, and getting all your investors in friends to do the same. When you're not on it, you tell yourself the list was bullshit for whatever reason, or that you don't have time to pitch yourself because you're too busy running a real company.
Unfortunately, these lists do matter and when you're not on them, you're missing out on opportunities for press that can cascade over time. For one, journalists often use existing lists as the basis for other lists. Also, when event organizers are thinking about speakers, lists of founders and companies represent easy references for invites. Later stage investors would also be lying if they don't reach out to see what's up and why a company might be featured.
So how do you get on one of these lists? Simply put, you need to make yourself known to the people writing them! But how? Ok, well, here are some tips:
1) First, figure out who we're talking about. Make yourself a comprehensive list of who is covering your space. Who has written about the five startups most like yours or most likely to get mentioned in the same conversations? Who has written about the five companies most likely to acquire you? What influencers are building a brand about being an expert in the space? Are there any podcasts you'd make a great guest on and who runs those shows? Who runs the conferences you'd make a great speaker at (like, literally, which person picks the speakers?)
2) Reach out. The best way to contact someone is when you're not asking for anything. Offer yourself as a resource. You're an expert on something, otherwise you wouldn't be starting a company around it, right? Write to all these contacts and just say that you're available if they need a quote, some background info on the space, or they want to spitball trend pieces. Perhaps you might offer them 3-5 interesting facts they could use in future pieces--the kinds of surprising stats you might have had in investor pitch decks that made you want to start this company in the first place.
3) Interact over time. Follow all of these folks on social media. You decided to build your career in this space and they're pushing out content about it. You should have opinions, be able to ask questions, and certainly be willing to share their content if you're looking for them to eventually share what you're up to. It's a lot better to have 3-5 different touch points with someone and then wind up in their inbox than to be a complete stranger. The best way to do this, obviously, is to do this authentically. These journalists and influencers are people, after all--and they do more than just follow Fintech or the On Demand Economy. Maybe they run or cook or they follow the same college sports team that you do. Find ways in which you can connect on a more personal level and stand out for them as a person they identify with instead of just as a founder looking to get a story placed.
4) Offer up your own lists. Share your view of other founders who are doing awesome stuff or offer to make introductions. You're obviously not going to be the only company on a watchlist so if you can help someone fill out the rest of the list, you're more likely to be included. And if you hate what everyone else is doing in the space, you're likely to be obnoxious to talk to and probably won't end up on anyone's list. Don't be a hater.
5) Invitations! Host some group dinners of interesting founders and other movers and shakers in your space. If you're a means of meeting other interesting people for a journalist, they'll likely stay in better touch with you because they think of your network in addition to thinking of you when they might need something. Having a reputation for being in the flow of things is a good reputation to have.
BONUS: This should be obvious, but actually accomplishing something helps more than anything else. Sometimes, you're working towards a really audacious goal that will come over time, but keeping smaller wins in mind that you can talk about is a great meetings of getting known. Each month, as a company or just as an individual, set out to do something that might be press worthy. Maybe it's just a simple co-marketing deal. Maybe you're going to start a new podcast. Whatever the case is, make sure you're not just always working, but you're actually launching as well.
Now go get on that list because it's going to be checked twice!