In many startups, PR is like the proverbial can that gets kicked down the road. It seems like something that can be put off until the company starts to grow. Time and money are usually short, after all, and PR doesn’t naturally jump to the top of the “must do” list. But what if PR were the key to that eagerly anticipated growth? Advertising is expensive and marketing programs take a long time to work. Without PR how else are customers, influencers, potential employees, and additional investors going to find out what you have to offer?
The truth is that PR is an extremely effective tool for startups and it doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming. There are a few simple tips and tricks that you can use to begin to build buzz about your brand.
One of your first PR goals should be to identify the reporters who cover your space and introduce yourself to them. By that, I don’t mean send them a story pitch or a press release. I mean introduce yourself as a person. Reporters are human beings and like most of us they are more responsive to people they know and enjoy.
Relationships are a two -way street, of course, so listen at least as much as you talk. Read what the relevant media contacts post on social media. Learn as much as you can about their unique interests so that you can eventually provide hyper-targeted pitches and content.
Create Customer Success
Happy clients who will talk are one of the most important assets your organization will ever possess. You’ll need them for references, case studies, and media pitches. That’s because reporters aren’t in the business of advertising your products. They are storytellers. Your clients can become the protagonist.
It isn’t always easy to earn (or spot) happy clients who will talk. This is especially true in the early days of a startup when you may not have many customers at all. So what should you do? If you can’t find this rare bird, create it. Offer discounts or even give your product away to people who will make good evangelists. Provide extra love and care if necessary. Keep the focus on helping your client achieve their business goals and they will repay your efforts over and over.
Put Your Products and Company in Context
You know those photo mosaics where a big picture is made up of hundreds of smaller ones? Think of your business as one of those small images. It may be beautiful and interesting on its own, but it is a part of a broader picture. The media is interested in the wider view.
When you craft your messages make sure they relate to something bigger that is going on in your industry, your community, or the world at large. Are you part of a growing trend or are you bucking conventional wisdom? Putting your brand in context makes for a more interesting narrative with a broader appeal.
Right now people are talking about your market space, your customers, and your competitors. There are conversations on social media, comments on blogs, and chats in forums. Why wouldn’t you want to add your voice to the conversation? You don’t need a PR rep or anyone’s permission to begin to make smart, thoughtful comments and join the folks who care about issues related to your brand. This isn’t necessarily the way to pitch your products, but it is one way to begin to emerge as a thought leader and to identify the influencers who have tremendous value.
People (buyers and reporters included) are bombarded by messages every day. You probably feel this way yourself. Everyone is trying to get your attention in one way or another. That’s why your, “ACME Corp Raised $5 million in Series A Funding,” press release didn’t get any attention. To get noticed you have to be a big orange splat on a white wall. It’s crucial to think about what sets your organization apart. How is your product different? How is your company different? What can you do to make your messages stand out from the crowd?
PR isn’t black magic, but there are some tricks of the trade. If you start to master these, you’ll be taking a big first step to introducing your brand to your target audience.