How Early-Stage Startups Should be Thinking about Public Relations
After you’ve invested time and money into building a great product that you’re proud of, you’ll want to turn your attention to getting that product in front of people. There are a number of different avenues and channels to consider for your marketing dollars, and you should test several of them with a small amount and see what sticks for your product within your industry. Each company will have different levels of success, as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this early-stage marketing.
To keep costs down, and to expand the audience to include many more people than those who might click on Facebook ads or subscribe to your email newsletter, you’ll also want to turn your attention to other channels such as public relations. You’ll want to reach out to reporters and bloggers to write stories on your company and to link back to your website so that new people can find you, click to your website, and check out what you have to offer.
This outreach, like most things with sales and marketing, is easier said than done. As a small team, or even just as a solo enterprise, this work will fall on the founders or core team, at least at first. Even if you have someone supervising your marketing on a full-time or a consulting basis, they may not be an expert in public relations. So this work will fall squarely on the shoulders of the executives in charge.
This might sound cumbersome at first, but in reality, having the founders reaching out on behalf of their company is not only common practice, but it’s also welcomed by many reporters. There are options, however, if you’d like to outsource your public relations campaign. Many founders must decide if they have the budget or want to try PR themselves first.
If you decide it’s time to get started with pursuing coverage, here are some tips to make sure you get the best results:
Keep it short and to the point
Reporters are busy, especially those who work at more well-known publications. Don’t write your entire company story in your initial inquiry. Make sure you focus it on what’s the most intriguing and compelling from their standpoint. You’ll want to share everything once you have their attention. This is an example of when less is more. If you tease a little bit about your story, they will hopefully want to respond to you to ask for more.
Think beyond the biggest players
You’ll want to reach out to the top publications who cover your industry. But don’t push your luck – wait for the right time when you have big enough news to be covered. You don’t want reporters to mark you as spam in the interim because you’ll miss your chance when the bigger news emerges at your company. Besides, when you pitch the top-tier publications, reporters will Google you to find out what’s out there already, and you want to have some presence. Curate what they’ll see there when the time is right.
Think outside the box
Don't narrow your search to mainstream publications. There are many niche outlets that cover your industry. While you may want to get into a big publication, don't forget that your target market is reading the smaller, niche publications, so it will be very valuable if you are featured in the right one.
If an approach isn’t working, stop doing it. Your time is valuable, and every hour you spend on one initiative comes at the opportunity cost of doing something else entirely. If you don’t find success right away after giving it a fair chance, it’s fine to walk away and pursue something else. In that case, revisit PR at a later point in your company’s evolution or when you have a budget to hire an expert team that can get you coverage.
Don’t grow disheartened
You might reach out to dozens of people before you get a hit. That’s okay. Keep at it if you truly believe you have a good story to tell. Sometimes reporters are bombarded with pitches and requests. It can take them a while to get back to you. Don’t pursue them too aggressively individually, but be sure to cast a wide net as you develop your media list. You won’t know until they respond which one is most poised as a target. But when they do get back to you, you’ll know you’re onto something.
About the Author
Danny Groner is Director of Growth PR for SquareFoot, a new kind of commercial real estate company that helps companies win at finding their next (and next) office, providing transparent access to inventory, brokerage services, and a flexible space offering. SquareFoot brings together technological innovation and human expertise to solve clients’ needs.