I’m a probationary writer at Vulcan Post, and have been scouting and featuring startups for over two months now.
Out of all the types of writing I’ve done so far, I look forward to featuring startups the most. I’m always excited to learn more about their journey and how they solve a problem or contribute to our society.
The process of a feature works like that: I’ll scout a startup, find an angle on how to feature them, pitch it to my team, send interview questions over via email once it’s approved, and do follow-up questions before the writeup.
While it sounds like a decently simple and straightforward process, the work we do is more than just stringing words together.
We break down your statements and pick impactful direct quotes from your answers to give our readers (and your audience too) valuable information, all the while doing our best to ensure it’s a smooth read.
A startup’s role in these processes matters much more than you’d think too.
What Makes A Good Feature?
From what I’ve seen, some startups tend to be quite guarded with their answers, giving very surface-level, vague one. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it takes away a lot of interesting details about your business that could leave an impression on readers.
The personality of the interviewee matters a lot too. By personality, I mean being honest and raw in how you talk about your startup, being detailed, and dropping the PR talk.
This helps readers feel like they’re connecting to the more human side of the startup. It’s something that we writers cannot do much to add for you if it’s absent in the first place.
In fact, if you’re a startup in a competitive market, I believe that your personality is one of the main things that can set you apart from others in a feature.
It’s great when we receive answers that feel like an open sharing session, as we can tell when an interviewee puts their heart into answering too.
Sharing details doesn’t always have to be about more negative topics like losses or regrets, but it can also be funny experiences throughout running the business, for example.
Details that also offer some practical advice to other players in the industry or to our audience/your potential customers don’t go unappreciated either.
Dropping The PR Talk Works Great
Sometimes we come across startups who think that an editorial feature on their brand means a piece that praises them from start to end, or could easily pass off as a page on their own site.
So, they then provide answers that tend to be quite “PR-sounding”. That, of course, has a time and place, but the editorial team finds little use in such answers.
What we mean by “PR-sounding” answers include:
- Vague statements about the business’ success with no details or examples to back them up,
- Using too many buzzwords (at least 5 probably came to your mind right now),
- Using too much jargon to sound fancy (layman’s terms are the best for reaching a wider audience),
- Making bold claims like first, best, top, without having an official record/award to back them up (our Google research can only go so far!).
However, it is understandable that jargon will be used sometimes, depending on what readers we’re aiming to target.
For example, if we’re writing an article that is catered towards other startups in a similar industry, some jargon is welcomed, since we explain them in those “Dictionary Time” sections you may have seen before in some articles anyway.
But when it comes down to having a feature that makes a startup sound approachable and accessible, it’s best when an interviewee can answer in layman’s terms.
Detail What You Can Do For Customers Instead
One book that us writers at Vulcan Post first read is called “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” by Ann Handley.
What she shares is not just important for us writers, but for brands to understand how to better reach their audience with desired results too.
From her, we learnt that writing in simple language as if we were writing the article for our mum or dad was the best way to create content that stuck to people.
Customers nowadays are a lot more discerning about a brand’s messages, and aren’t easily won over by big, fancy words.
A brand simply boasting what they can do isn’t going to impress many; people want to know what they’ll actually get out of using your product or service.
But for us writers to reflect this information, we need the interviewees to first give it.
Remember what we said about your personality being something that could make your feature more memorable?
Pictures are the same too, whether they’re founder or team pictures, or just behind-the-scenes pictures of your team creating a product, for example.
Words matter, and a good story does make the piece, but the pictures add a lot to the piece too. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Furthermore, pictures that showcase who the people behind a company are can instil more customer trust in your brand.
So, get those professional or candid founder/team pictures taken now, since they’ll come handy for a variety of uses in the future, features on Vulcan Post included.
- You can read more about other opinion articles we’ve written about here.