Communications challenges can halt PR founders before they get started. We recently collaborated on an in-depth whitepaper produced by Business Wire. Titled “Startup PR: How to get lift-off for your launch”, the paper addresses some of the challenges that startup PR professionals can encounter. A little planning and proper strategy can go a long way toward developing an effective PR strategy. The whitepaper shares compelling advice from PR leaders, and we’ve broken down some of the tactics they cover. To learn more, download the full whitepaper here.
Know When to Tell Your Story and Create a PR Plan
It’s a good practice to show commercial viability and real-world impact before formally getting the word out about your company. Though companies should start thinking through their story and planning their PR approach before they close funding, it’s important to have a working product that people can see and understand. Startups should create a plan that maps PR activity against company milestones on a quarterly or semi-annual basis to ensure consistency. In between milestone events, when there may not be much to report, you can focus on self-produced content.
Focus on Your Audience
PR efforts cannot be effective or well-timed without a deep understanding of your audience. From customers to potential investors and employees, the key to reaching your audience is understanding what interests and motivates them. When pitching to journalists, focus on customer stories that prove the value of your solution or product. Along those lines, it’s a smart idea to collaborate with customers on content. Doing so creates social proof and also leverages a perspective that your audience is more likely to find relatable.
Initially, a well-known spokesperson (such as a celebrity or influencer) can lend interest and credibility to your brand, but be careful of becoming too reliant on such individuals. Journalists share that they want to speak to people involved in the company: the person who had the ideas, built the brand, and can answer specific questions. A passionate executive makes a very compelling spokesperson. Additionally, board members or investors might recommend people in their networks who would be willing to participate in an interview or offer a third-party opinion. No matter who speaks on behalf of your organization, it’s a good idea to provide some media training and practice.
Identify When and How to Go Pro
Typically, in startups, a founder or other executive will take the PR lead until other duties become too pressing, or the PR needs become too great. At this point, I recommend that early startups initially hire a PR contractor who can develop a relationship with the business and manage the smaller amount of work that may not be financially viable for an agency. Once the startup has a sustained need for PR or a specific push that requires a lot of outreach, leadership should connect with an agency partner.
Understand How Different Publications Engage Different Audiences
Even the largest publications are not the ideal way for every startup to reach their desired audience. We suggest thinking through the audiences you hope to reach and the actions you want each coverage piece to drive, and build relationships with the right journalists and outlets to further your unique goals. Remember that targeting the publications that influence a startup’s audience can also ultimately lead to higher-profile coverage.
Asses “Bad” Coverage and Handle Appropriately
Inevitably, most companies will receive unfavorable coverage at some point. In these cases, it’s important to consider whether the coverage is actually bad, or whether it just isn’t positioned as the company would like. When managing these messages, be fast, honest, and accountable.