Don’t make the mistake of launching your business without considering your startup public relations strategy.
Despite what people say, It’s never too early to begin the startup public relations process. Even with just an idea, the sooner you engage in public relations, the sooner you’ll be able to verify if you’re on the right track.
Public relations is an umbrella term for product creation, engaging with customers, and courting the media. Starting the public relations process from Day 1 means identifying your public and key areas of differentiation that make you the right choice for prospects. Whether you’re past the MVP phase, or simple kicking around an idea, getting outsiders involved means developing customer relationships, advancing a company narrative, and growing your profile as an entrepreneur.
Public relations for your startup is different from advertising because your investment is time, not ad-buying dollars. That doesn’t make public relations free, but there is no out-of-pocket cost.
Simple way to begin the startup public relations process
Public relations for your business doesn’t have to be expensive. The fastest and easiest ways to engage in the PR process for your business is to maintain a corporate blog, and to be active on Twitter. Content that illuminates your growth process is a great way to humanize your company, and to create discussion with potential users and partners.
You should also follow influential bloggers in your industry and engage with their new blog posts and articles. Create a community around the problem you wish to solve. It’s essential to have a community for your product, both before and after you launch, as we discussed with Douglas Crets from Microsoft BizSpark.
Should you hire a PR firm to help?
The majority of public relations and content marketing activities startups need can be handled internally. Many startups have started hiring public relations firms early for good reason.
The barriers to entry for starting a technology company have never been lower. More startups means more innovation, and more solutions to real world problems. This means more competition for users’ attention, and more competition to get in front of journalists.
Hiring a public relations professional at an early stage can help you break through the noise, and stay on the radar of the journalists and influences who matter. An experienced PR firm or solo PR consultant is also there to help you develop important collateral for your company, such as media kits, website copy, and positioning statements. Publicists can also help your CEO or team members get invited to speak at conferences, and participate on panels at major industry events. A publicist can help startups generate the early buzz they need to attract key hires, or sway the decision-making process at a prestigious startup accelerator.
Why you want early PR
The time has never been better for startups. Amazon Web Services has dramatically reduced the cost of hosting and file storage, and companies without technical founders, who are experts at product marketing, can do quite well. What’s needed is added awareness, and the credibility of media recognition. Startups featured in prominent publications are at an advantage when they’re looking for investors, or who when they’re attempting to close major partnerships with established players. While much of this startup public relations activity can be hacked, a PR pro, with knowledge of the landscape, can significantly add to your ground game.
What to do if you can’t afford full-time PR
Many startups cannot afford to retain a full-time publicist. But even at an early stage it’s still a good idea to seek the help of a PR professional. Depending on your budget, the maturity of your startup, and your public relations needs, you may be able to engage a startup PR professional on a per-project or one-off basis until you have significant momentum behind your company.
A publicist who specializes in startups can help you tease out the most compelling angles of your startup story, and can provide important feedback on what journalists cover startups like yours, as well as how to pitch them. Business Insider put together a handy resource for startups to pitch reporters. Jason Baptiste also has a helpful guide for pitching startup journalists on his site.
Countless resources, courses and how-to’s exist on how to engage the media. An experienced publicist has devoted his or her career to cultivating relationships with the press for the client’s benefit. This can only happen over time, and with repeated outreach. Ultimately startup journalists want to speak with entrepreneurs and CEOs, not their flacks, but PRs are a bridge to relationship formation.
The best time to begin the startup PR process was yesterday. The second best time is right now. If you have questions or comments about PR for your startup, I’d love to help in any way I can. Just drop me a note.
Have you had experience with early PR, good or bad? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.