It is not surprising that start-ups quickly turn their attention to PR. It can be an invaluable tool in promoting a new business. However, many start-ups view PR as a cheap way to raise awareness of their company. It’s certainly true that gaining high quality coverage can represent much better value for money than advertising, but securing press coverage can be extremely difficult for young companies as they are competing for column inches with larger companies with more resources at their disposal. To be successful, a great deal of thought must be put into your PR approach. Below are some top tips for start-ups to consider when planning your PR strategy.
- Do your research
Take the time to review the media coverage that your industry is generating. Consider the topics and activities that are driving coverage for your competition. By understanding the media environment you are operating in, you give yourself a better chance to implement a successful PR strategy. A good way to stay in touch with your industry is to follow key journalists on Twitter. They often tweet their articles and wider industry news, as well as occasionally requesting input for articles. It can also help you to learn more about each journalist and will help you customise your communication with them.
- Get your story straight
Before you start thinking about your PR outreach make sure that you have established what your unique selling points are and how you add value to your end users. You should be able to explain your start-up in one sentence without using any industry specific jargon. Every day journalists receive hundreds of press releases, so for your story to make an impact, it must be interesting, topical or different. Think outside the box, about what is trending in the news and how you can link your start-up to that angle. Make sure your news is adding value to readers because journalists aren’t there to help you market your business.
- Be wary of press releases
They are the traditional way of sharing news, but many journalists these days dislike press releases. They are often too long, full of pointless executive quotes and littered with marketing jargon. If you feel you want to produce one, be concise and keep it interesting. If in doubt, avoid them and focus on sending custom emails to journalists instead.
- Focus on quality over quantity when pitching
Blasting a press release to hundreds of journalists simply doesn’t work. Make a list of the top 5-10 journalists in your industry. Read some of their articles and get a clear understanding of what they cover. Focus your PR outreach on building a relationship with these key journalists. Make sure you customise each pitch to every journalist. They may not cover you straight away, but they will appreciate your personal approach and if you show that you follow their work and understand their topics, you have a good chance of building a mutually beneficial relationship with them.
- Handle journalists with care
Journalists are very busy people and have a very short attention span. Ensure you can explain your pitch in only a few sentences, as its likely that the journalist will only read the first few sentences of your email. Pressuring writers does not work. Do not feel tempted to harass a journalist to try to convince them to cover your news. Make sure you listen. If a journalist gives you constructive feedback, you should lap it up and learn from it.
- Don’t drink the Kool-Aid
It is common for start-ups to see any success as a major breakthrough that they want to shout about. But take a step back and consider how significant your news is in the wider scheme of things and whether it is valuable enough to publicise. Remember that there are thousands of news stories every day. Spamming journalists with irrelevant news is the quickest way to kill off a budding media relationship.
- Running a sound business will help with long term PR success
PR is not a silver bullet, but if you are bringing a unique product or service to market that helps to solve people’s problems then you are in a good place. Building trust with media, however, takes time so don’t expect hundreds of clippings straight away. PR success requires a consistent and long-term approach, so make sure your company is fully operational and has made some sales before even considering investing in PR. If your start-up is poorly thought out or your products don’t work, media coverage will not make up for it. Instead, spend your time getting your house in order and think longer term.
- Be wary of just throwing money at PR
The world of PR is often considered to be shrouded in mystery and an intimidating environment for start-ups to infiltrate. This can lead to start-ups investing limited funds poorly, by signing lengthy contracts with big agencies or wasting significant sums with press release distribution wires. There are multiple options open to start-ups with limited budget and finding the right partner can help you work through the challenges outlined above. It may be more cost-effective to hire a freelance PR or a smaller sector specialist agency. Or you could talk to an agency that is also a start-up, in which the relationship benefits both parties. Alternatively, a session with a PR consultant may give you the tools to get the PR ball rolling in-house in the beginning.
- Consider wider communications
PR is not only about coverage and generating awareness. Many communications tactics and tools exist that can drive your business forward. Communications agencies, like Akima Media, are in the business of helping our clients drive business through communications, regardless of the medium. This can involve traditional PR, digital and content marketing, social media, lead gen campaigns or business development consultancy.
If you are interested in discussing any of the above, or would like to book a free initial consultancy session, please get in touch with me: Alastair.McCormick@akima.co.uk