167: Earned Media Strategy to Boost Your New Consumer Product

167: Get Free Earned Media for a New Hardware Product

March 16, 2023

Jackson Wightman, Co-Author of The Tech PR Playbook

Hosted by Kevin Mako, President of MAKO Design + Invent

167: Get Free Earned Media for a New Hardware Product
167: Get Free Earned Media for a New Hardware Product

Jackson Wightman, the co-author of The Tech PR Playbook, shares his two decades of PR expertise in a comprehensive guide. He co-founded Proper Propaganda, a public relations firm specializing in hardware startups and scale-ups, which gives him extensive experience in the field. Jackson is an accomplished individual with an impressive academic background that includes an MBA, a Masters degree in Political Science, and a BA. He also holds a position as an instructor at McGill University. In this session, he will provide valuable insights for inventors, startups, and small manufacturers, specifically on the topic of earned media strategy for hardware companies. Jackson will discuss the significance of earned media and press, and offer practical tips for securing positive coverage from renowned hardware journalists and publications.

Today you will hear us talk about:

  • Many hardware startups lack awareness about earned media and how to effectively use it to promote their products.
  • Comprehending the concept of earned media strategy for hardware startups.
  • Acquiring editorial media coverage.
  • The significant value that earned media holds for hardware startups.
  • Earned media is highly trusted by readers because it is unpaid.
  • Earned media is more credible than paid advertisements.
  • Earned media can be repurposed for various objectives, such as increasing product sales and enhancing visibility for stakeholders, including customers, investors, partners, and potential employees.
  • The immense potential of building brand equity.
  • Although hardware startups primarily focus on products, it is crucial to recognize the power of brand building through PR and earned media.
  • Earned media articles have an evergreen nature, meaning they remain relevant indefinitely.
  • Strategies for differentiating and standing out to secure outstanding earned media.
  • Acknowledge that obtaining coverage from journalists and media outlets is competitive.
  • To make your product and its story unique compared to existing offerings, consider how to stand out in the competitive nature of earned media PR.
  • Target the appropriate media by pitching to the right journalists, reporters, and outlets for your specific hardware niche.
  • When pitching, articulate your story concisely.
  • Provide quality assets, ensure the prototype functions, and offer clear instructions.
  • Have a product newcomer test your samples for user experience.
  • Products with a feature-creep face more difficulties in gaining earned media.
  • The Tech PR Playbook: Common mistakes made by hardware startups when attempting to secure earned media and how to overcome these challenges.
  • Different objectives require distinct earned media strategies, and each goal necessitates a unique approach to attract press coverage


  • 1:00 – Hardware is now developed iteratively, but there are tools to do it the best way in 2023
  • 3:00 – Hardware product development iteration is historically rigid and difficult
  • 3:15 – Ideally you want to be nimble and be able to meet customer demand, or other market demands.
  • 4:30 – What is iterative design between manufacturing runs?
  • 4:40 – Legacy hardware design is through waterfall methodologies. Releases are planned well in advance and thus iterative design and feedback is very rigid.
  • 5:00 – Modern hardware development takes from the software playbook
  • 5:25 – It is easier than ever, due to manufacturing technology, to get iterative designs back to review and improve.  More confidence to iterative and move forward with a new design.
  • 5:30 – Quick assemblies, 3D printing, low quantity builds, short-run manufacturing
  • 6:00 – The pandemic forced people to be agile in development given that many supply chain issues forced legacy processes to upgrade to iterative design logic.
  • 6:55 – There is a ton of new technology both in design and manufacturing to be able to iterate your product efficiently.
  • 7:05 – Short run production is so valuable to iterative physical product design and development.
  • 7:30 – Planning your product lifecycle well in advance is not realistic unless you can pay millions on consultants and data to ensure you’re properly making those predictions so early, and even so, the information will be weaker than iterating in real-time based on real market needs.
  • 8:30 – There are many different stakeholders which should weigh into the feedback between each iterating in design: The customer, industrial design, mechanical engineering, electronics engineering, software, manufacturing, product managers, investors, the inventor, employees, etc.
  • 8:50 – Make sure you get engineers in front of customers that have bought your prior versions of the product.
  • 9:55 – Who are your existing customers and who are your potential customers.
  • 10:10 – Feedback can be both problems that need to be solved but also opportunities for new features.
  • 10:50 – Make sure you are at least first being sure that you are collecting feedback information.
  • 11:00 – After you collect feedback information, how do you organize and prioritize that information, so that you can eventually execute on that information properly.
  • 11:30 – A foundation of organization is revision control.
  • 14:40 – Collaboration is the next key pillar of iterative design, built on the foundation of revision history.
  • 17:00 – How do you then prioritize the collaborated information.  Priority labels and importance.
  • 19:00 – Even if you’re just a new hardware startup, you can use these processes in a simple spreadsheet to improve the output of your physical product development processes.


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