Few things can put a startup on the map more effectively than earned media from a concerted PR program. In today’s competitive business environment, new startups fail because not enough people know about them and their products. Finding the right public relations partner can help a startup build press-worthy news to increase their visibility among many key audiences, distinguish their brand in the marketplace, attract investors, and spur subsequent growth.
While a hit in the right publication can certainly be a great benefit to a company, a winning PR approach takes time. Building relationships and a reputation takes time and investment and comes with repetition. It’s hard work and—as many new entrepreneurs have learned—not a simple do-it-yourself effort.
To maximize such investments startups must work closely with their PR teams and develop a communications strategy encompassing media relations, thought leadership initiatives, digital messaging and content marketing, among other efforts.
With that in mind, here are a few things startups should consider when it comes to engaging a PR firm and making sure they add value to the top and bottom lines:
Set realistic expectations.
Expecting immediate returns on the company’s investments can be an occupational hazard. Sometimes it takes a few tries to capture a reporter’s attention and three months for an article to be published. “Earned” media—publicity garnered via promotion rather than “paid” advertising—requires patience.
Communicators need time to put a strategy in place to market the company and find success with both long- and short-lead targets. Communicators need room to develop compelling stories to pitch to the media. C-level executives and PR teams have to be crystal clear regarding the overall message and course of action.
Because the PR results are so visible, it’s also crucial that the company’s executives entrust PR executives with the ability to make moves and relationships on their behalf. PR executives should be included in the company’s inner circle so they can both promote and protect the company. Finally, executives must know when to get out of the way so they don’t slow down the process.
Cast a wide net with the media.
Sure, tech startups are in thrall to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch and other A-list media outlets. But pitching the most upscale publications without pitching those that speak directly to the company’s buying audience is blue-sky thinking. Startups need to establish their reputation in the marketplace while they try to merit that kind of media real estate. Companies shouldn’t overlook the publications where their most important audience is concentrated.
Communicators are able to target the most relevant and impassioned audiences. PR pros are going to pitch business media outlets (focusing on the big picture of the technology); technology verticals (for more granular coverage of the application) and niche web sites focusing on new technologies/markets.
In addition to pitching the most appropriate media outlets, PR pros are going to sniff out industry conferences and events to pitch the company’s top executives for possible speaking engagements. Communicators will also reach out to influencers who in turn are able to introduce the brand’s senior executives to a much wider audience.
Demonstrate the technology’s real-world impact.
Fledgling companies without any street cred are easily overlooked by both investors and the media. To increase their odds of success it’s crucial they rely on their PR firms to help them develop messaging explaining the startup technology’s real-world applications and highlighting its “brand purpose,” or how the company’s products and services are changing the world for the better. They also can help the company prove what they claim, by finding backup stats and working with customers to make them advocates and spokespeople.
Educating the market about what the brand stands for beyond just its products plays into the growing trend among consumers—and millennials, in particular—to support companies which reflect their core values. Working in tandem with their PR firm, startups can show how their products solve people’s problems, improve businesses and local or global communities.
Nurture trade groups.
Startups can rely on their PR firms to actively engage trade and meet-up groups that can help put startup firms on the map and spread the word. There are a plenty of opportunities for startups to develop new business partnerships via local chambers of commerce and similar organizations. What’s more, cultivating relationships with these groups is an effective way for startups to expand their footprint and engage with like-minded people.
Get in front of potential buyers.
Startups often seek to get the company’s top executives in front of potential buyers. Communicators can help by arranging for senior executives to attend events and conferences where tech investors/buyers gather. PR experts can place thought leadership articles on websites and/or trade publications appealing to buyers and/or investors.
PR brings a 360-degree perspective of how startups can communicate their way to success. Communicators can generate a “cascade” of content and media opportunities in order to keep the brand’s fire burning. It takes trust, inclusion, partnership, investment and patience on the part of the buyer.
In a post-digital age—with both legacy brands and startups scrambling for attention—companies need a full-court press in order to separate their products and services from the pack and build a solid foundation for their marketing communications needs.
– Cindi Goodsell