**Editor’s note: We advocate telling TRUE stories to journalists. We publish this story for the broader lesson that it provides.

“Jon, this story is 100% amazing and fascinating! Are you OK with me adapting it for the article? Can I quote you by name?”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get press.
Want to get your startup national press? Let me tell you a story about the above response I received the other day from a reporter named Josh. 
I saw a query from Josh hit my inbox: Did something funny happen to you at a tech startup Xmas party? Do tell. Here’s the response I sent Josh:

TP stuck on peg-leg

I attended an Xmas party last year hosted by a well-known tech startup ([whispers] “secrets”). It was a pretty normal party with a pretty normal slate of guests, and the conversation was great. It being an ugly sweater theme, I didn’t think much of people’s unusual attire.

I got into really deep conversation with this one guy who was a programmer at the startup. We were actually talking about how to establish dominance in a herd of goats, a topic he knew a lot about since he and his ex-wife used to raise goats for a living, selling their cheese to delicatessens in the mountains of VA. He recounted how this one goat used to head butt him constantly when he wasn’t looking, to try to dominate him. So, he said that the only way to counteract this behavior was to saddle the goat, take hold of his horns, and to ride the goat around in front of the herd. “Do that,” he said, and that goat will get the picture that you’re in charge.

Anyway, lost in conversation, I hadn’t noticed the guy’s floor-length ugly sweater–sort of like a cross between a cardigan and a trench coat–or the peg leg concealed beneath the sweater that supported the right side of his body. He stood to go to the bathroom, and I heard the knock of the peg-leg on the tile floor as he walked away, but still didn’t actually see it.

I stood to refill my keg cup, and when I next saw the peg-legged programmer I had talked to about goats, he had a long trail of toilet paper stuck to his shoe. I walked up to him and pointed out the TP, and he bent down to bat it away. As he bent down, the tails of his sweater parted, and his peg leg was revealed.

That was the first and only time I’ve ever seen TP stuck to a peg-leg. But nice guy, and apparently a rock-star programmer.

None of this actually happened–to me, anyway. It was a 4-minute exercise in creative writing, the result of which I sent to Josh.

The query came through a free service called HARO, which stands for “help a reporter out.” It’s a free way for reporters to post queries and find sources for their stories. But if you’re a potential source–and you are–it’s a free way to get press. For startups, I can’t recommend HARO enough. If you aren’t already, start using HARO.
Here are the benefits of HARO for startups:

  1. Press mentions of your startup.
  2. In crafting your response to a query, you can choose your strategic message.
  3. Media contacts: the reporter who sent the query can catalog you as an expert in your area for future relevant stories.
  4. Stay ahead of news trends: it’s sort of like a crowd-sourced editorial calendar across various industries and audiences.

Plus, it’s a great way to have fun.

I’m not sure if Josh thinks this actually happened or not (he probably doesn’t care). But in any case, his audience will be entertained, and my startup CellBreaker.com will be mentioned. While it’s not the same as a front-page story in the personal finance section of a national publication (I’ve gotten those too), it’s a mention and a way to reach an entire audience I might not have otherwise reached.
The point of sending Josh this story and writing about the result here is to demonstrate to you how painless getting press for your startup can be. Reporters need sources, and it’s a seller’s market. If I can write about peg-legged programmers riding goats and get press (here’s the published piece), I know I can get press by writing about how CellBreaker saves consumers time and money.
PR is all about telling stories.