August
18, 2020

14 min read

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

With up to 100 million new businesses a year, getting the word out about a new business can be a daunting task. After a long battle to develop and launch new products or services, when founders finally hit a major milestone, they want to get their news out from the rooftops. The problem is that millions of other founders are in the same boat and most likely trying to make announcements through the same channels.

While larger companies may be able to get news on the wire and get coverage, for startups yet to make their mark, relying solely on press releases is likely a futile effort.

Craig Corbett, Principal at Publicize & Company, a startup and technology leadership communications consultancy, said, “Most early stage founders can't afford to pay high agency rates of $ 10,000 per month and 6 month retainers to get coverage receive. Hence, new founders who want to be heard above the crowd need to be scratchy, build relationships with various media influencers over time, publish their team and opinions as widely as possible, and try many different tactics and channels to get their target audiences' attention. "

For startups with financial difficulties, your PR strategy must be tailored to a high degree to current trends and customer behavior. "Most public relations success comes from understanding why you're relevant at this point," says Corbett. “To be part of the conversation, you need to know what that conversation is. This means reading the news, having an opinion, and keeping up with major trends in your industry and in the lives of your potential customers. "

Most importantly, PR needs to promote your mission, not your ego. Not every article you write or interview will directly hook up your product, but all content must support your company's core values, beliefs, or goals.

Here are five key steps to building a powerful PR strategy as a new company:

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1. Prepare your storefront.

Before you contact the first journalist, or even before you go to your first major networking event, you need to get your house in order. When you start getting your brand out there – or trying to do so – the first thing that will be looking at your website and social media presence will be editors, prospects, or customers.

Your branding and website design may not look like they were created in a high school classroom. Your content and messages – that is, website text, but also social media posts and blog posts – must have a consistent, clear voice. Eliminate typing errors, unprofessional expressions of opinion, and railing vlog posts.

"Search your online presence and make sure all public profiles of your company and your founders are up to date before hitting the press," said Katie Griffing, co-founder of marketing and public relations firm Launchway Media . "Don't forget websites like Crunchbase, Angel.co, or industry directories or listings (G2, Capterra, App Stores, etc.) that you may have uploaded product information to in the past."

When you've tidied up your "storefront", put some good things on display. You can present your own content: Upload articles, blog posts and other content created by your team to your website and social media, but also to secondary channels such as Medium and LinkedIn. This content is almost similar to your portfolio of thought leaders – journalists and editors need to get a feel for your writing style and business ideology before they let you through the door.

"Startups should use their own channels as a test platform to see what kind of content is really reaching their target groups," says Corbett. "This will force the founders to think about different topics that are relevant to their stakeholders."

Big brands create one or more pieces of content a day, but at this early stage, founders should set goals of around one blog post per week.

"Content marketing is not about publishing endless articles and hoping for a huge surge in website traffic," said George Chilton, co-founder of content marketing agency Hubbub Labs. "It's about creating content that solves your target audience's problems in a simple and easy-to-use way."

When you have your storefront ready, put together an enticing media package to share with journalists and upload to the media section of your website. This should include things like press releases, team information, prior reporting, team photos, and product information.

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2. Stop selling, start storytelling.

Startups that have just been launched (or are about to launch) are inherently less current. Passing is not an announcement, and that means founders need to capture media interest beyond press releases and company milestones.

Storytelling: There are many inspiring, fun, and unusual stories that you could tell if you looked beyond the product itself. Corbett recommends looking at other parts of your startup's journey: Often times, the media is more interested in the jockey (your team) than the horse (your product).

Most of the coverage of new companies in high level publications focuses on the team, mission, and founding stories. Discover the journey that took the founder and team members to where they are today, the great values ​​that drive your company or your diverse corporate culture. It's about sharing what's different about your company and not what's the same.

Thought Leadership: A successful approach to PR is to present yourself as an expert and conversation starter in your area. Thought leaders tackle current issues – or darker areas that are still relevant to their target audience – and come up with arguments that will inspire people. They leverage their inside knowledge of their industry, pick up on trends no one else is talking about, and provide data intelligence about the industry and target market (your startup may already be collecting such data for its own purposes).

Basically, you should educate yourself with content that is tailored to your target group and the core of which is a strong argument.

"You can understand the problems your audience needs to solve by creating detailed buyer personalities and exploring what they're looking for using tools like AnswerThePublic, Google's People Also Ask search bars, and search engines auto-complete." says Chilton.

Your thought-leading content should align with your company's mission. That means identifying what your company stands for (do you want to boost financial empowerment? Safer Internet surfing for everyone?) And move on from there. You can work this out visually using diagrams. Break down your company's mission into words or phrases, list subject areas worth writing about in each section, and find current topics under each of those topics.

While this type of reporting might not promote your product directly, it will drive traffic back to your website, provide social evidence that your startup is reputable, and let people know that the founders are credible authorities in their industry.

"Don't be afraid to give your company an opinion," says Ida Åsle, who is the platform, marketing and PR manager at byFounders. "Too many companies are afraid to scare off prospects, but being boring won't attract anyone. When you hear your voice, it shows that you understand the context you are in and that you have the courage to make real change . "

3. Not just content: start putting yourself there.

Much of PR is not about media exposure, but rather about giving the face a name and the brand a face. Take the plunge and introduce your new business to your colleagues and your target market.

You can double your expert personality and offer presentations and workshops for relevant local organizations, schools and larger conferences. Don't limit yourself to niche events, think about where your target audience wants to learn, have fun, and socialize, and be there. Dealing with the public is often a trial and error teaching you the pros and cons of marketing directly to consumers.

If you are a B2C startup, your special focus is on going straight to the customer. Face-to-face interactions can be as small as street fairs, distributing samples at events and organizing meetups. If social distancing is an issue, research virtual trade shows and marketplaces, and post any physical product samples.

For B2B startups, it means embedding yourself in the industry in order to present yourself in front of an audience. Offer to mentor startup organizations and join business and funding communities. You should also apply for competitions like pitch competitions. Even if you're not accepted, sharing your profile and product can put you on the radar of other events, investors, or media influencers.

Also build a personality behind your brand by presenting your product on different platforms and using them to interact with potential customers. Expand your profile on discovery sites like ProductHunt, BetaList, or StartupRanking.com. Answer questions from users even if they are not already in contact with you, ask your own questions, and become a proactive member of multiple communities. Getting a high number of votes on sites like ProductHunt can give you a huge boost in PR and attract a wave of new users your way.

These discussions and interactions often start or end on your personal social media platforms. "Never underestimate the power of social media," says Dalia Landes, marketing director at Startup Accelerator MassChallenge Israel. "Smart startups can use social media channels to drive messaging, generate excitement, show demos, share data and become thought leaders."

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4. Build media relationships over time.

Journalists are bombarded with hundreds of parking spaces every day. Instead of always sending out opinion pieces or expecting them to cover your latest press release, it's important to give more than you take.

You can offer journalists exclusive data without asking for anything other than a reference. Repackage your information: present your data in infographics, summarize your thoughts in white papers, and distribute marketing resources to help journalists build the story.

"My number one tip is to do a research report on your problem area," says Patrick Mork, founder and chief storyteller of culture transformation company LEAP. "You get valuable data for your product team, bits of data for your social media and PR folks, and a treasure trove of information that you can incorporate into an e-book, blog posts, and infographics to take the lead on your salespeople Child's play! "

You can also offer journalists an interview with the founders who are finding out about a current news event. In order not to appear arrogant, share a few points as to why, based on your years of experience, you may provide a unique or alternative insight. Make recommendations and introductions to other startups (not competitors) in your network that may be of interest to journalists.

By providing the journalist with information that will be of real use to the journalist, you are showing that you are cutting edge and have a deep understanding of the industry. They will likely come back to you for more information.

“Following a journalist's interests, their social media profiles, and reading their latest articles are highly recommended,” says Rosa Jiménez, former Silicon Valley correspondent for El País and head of ecosystem relations at The Venture City, a new one Venture and acceleration model from Madrid and Miami.

Use your social media to comment on journalists' articles, re-share their posts, and send them tips and data that could be of use in future articles. This will put you on their radar and be more likely to get the time of day if you have a strong announcement.

Every founder should set up an account with Help A Reporter Out and check in each day to see what journalists request. It's a great way to build relationships.

"Becoming a reliable and consistent source of knowledge is a fundamental requirement for publishing a feature story about your company," says Jiménez.

Don't dismiss smaller publications. Often times these are syndicated from larger platforms, they can reach hundreds of thousands of readers per month, and journalists and colleagues will read them for inspiration. And because they (like you) are in their early growth stages, they are much more likely to be ready to report on the progress of emerging startups.

Remember that as a young company you need to be realistic about where you are likely to get a job. "While MarketingLand may not be as sexy as Forbes, the reality is that you're far more likely to reach your audiences through niche publications than general publications," says Corbett. "Your goal in your first year is to build a media coverage base that will improve your chances of being spotted by the 'big hits'."

Forge relationships with emerging and regional media, industry publications, blogs and podcasts instead of going for TechCrunch from the start. Who knows, maybe the blog writer who covered your launch will be the editor of a high-level publication if you hit another major milestone.

5. Do the right thing.

The best PR is based on tackling new problems, being socially responsible, and helping communities. When you have an inspiring mission and can tell these normal people, the reporting will be organic.

COVID-19 has exposed the cracks in our society and created new ones. Companies that go out of their way to solve real problems and prioritize helping others over profits are more likely to get the recognition they deserve.

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Present the long-term vision of your company. Perhaps your startup has taken on a social cause, e.g. For example, promoting a more diverse work environment, educating school children in your niche, or donating a percentage of your sales to a charity for the disabled. Why not write an article about these social issues and what the startup world should do to improve the situation? Often times, this is much more interesting to the media than your actual product.

"Sell Your Dream" show the human side of your business and prove that you make people's hard-earned dollars more than your competitors.

Don't be afraid of PR if you are still in the early stages of getting your product to market. It's about demonstrating that the startup has a little more to offer and has a strong voice and purpose to add to the community as a whole.

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