How should I do PR for my startup?

Getting your startup noticed is one of first hurdles entrepreneurs face when they launch their business. Here are four simple tips to get your PR strategy off the ground.

Photo via  Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

Few things get entrepreneurs as excited as launching a new business. After long periods of planning and doing all the necessary prep, you want to make sure that your brand gets the attention it deserves once you take it to market.

While it’s common knowledge that marketing is key to startup success, people often underestimate the role of public relations in their strategy. PR is an important tool for getting the word out about your brand and building its credibility, as it leverages trusted third parties to talk about your product to their audiences. However, it can be hard to do without the help of industry experts.

If you’re running a startup, the challenge is even bigger. To the public eye, your business is a blank slate, with no awareness, track record, or relationship with its target audience to build on. While this can be daunting, it’s also an exciting opportunity to tell a compelling narrative about your brand -- if you know where to begin.

Executing your PR strategy as a startup will require different thinking and tactics versus doing so as an established company. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

Set your objective

As a new business, it’s important to get clear on what you want to achieve, as this will set the pace for all your marketing efforts moving forward. The beauty of PR is that it can serve your enterprise at every stage of its life cycle.

You might have a new product, service, or idea that the public doesn’t know about or understand. If this is the case, your objective should be to educate people.

If your startup needs more funding to meet its business goals, your objective should be to convince potential investors.

You may have already identified a market that your business can cater to. You should then communicate to them with the goal of generating trials of your product or service.

Or perhaps you’ve already built a solid customer base and want to grow it. You can use PR to acquire new customers.

Attracting top talent to join your growing business is also a common communication objective for startups that want to thrive in a competitive landscape.

Or you might have a truly unique offering that you think is superior to other options in the market, and so you should use PR to position your brand so that it stands out from your competitors and highlight your competitive advantage. An ambitious goal, especially if you’re up against established organizations that already have track records and relationships with media institutions and influencers.

These different objectives dictate the angle from which your story should be told as well the channels that cover it. For example, if your goal is to generate funding, then you would want your press materials to include optimistic sales projections that highlight your startup’s profitability, and you should target placements in publications read by venture capitalists and angel investors.

Getting initial coverage to achieve any of these goals could be challenging, but you’ve already won half the battle by focusing your objectives and crafting your messages accordingly, which brings us to the next step...

Nail your USP

Your Unique Selling Proposition states what differentiates your business from your competitors. Your USP is central to any story told about your brand, so be sure to articulate it clearly and concisely from the start. No one likes a brand that rambles.

Here’s a simple structure you could follow when crafting your USP:

We <your company’s offering> for <target audience> who want to <need or goal that you help them meet> with <quality that is unique to you>.

To illustrate, here’s Press Pillay’s USP:

We offer digital communications services for startups and nonprofits who want to promote their businesses and advocacies with an emphasis on empathy and giving back to society.

Photo via  Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

Know what’s newsworthy

Once you’ve honed in on your USP, you might catch press release fever and start blasting your story to as many people as possible. Stop. The truth is, not everyone is going to want to hear it, and that’s perfectly fine. The secret to being heard is figuring out what aspects or angles of your story are newsworthy and prioritizing the outlets who will be interested.

So instead of sending out the same generic press release indiscriminately (which won’t get you coverage), explore different story ideas and topics through which you can discuss your business in a way that’s relevant to your target audience. This increases the likelihood that your story will be picked up by the media. PR agencies can be particularly useful in helping you develop a more strategic approach to this.

Once you have the media’s attention, it’s important to keep feeding the editorial pipeline to sustain their interest and ensure that your brand stays visible amidst the noise. Having a long-term strategy with a lineup of fresh story ideas to keep the media hungry for more is best.

Build your searchability

In this day and age, a brand’s reputation exists largely on the internet. Once you’ve built a good track record of press activities and positive customer reviews, you’ll want to make sure that these are accessible to people who may be looking online for information about your business. One way to make your brand more searchable online is to constantly produce content like thought leadership blog posts and guest articles in targeted outlets that include links to other content that speak favorably about your business.

If these guidelines make doing PR for startups sound easy, then we’re happy to say that it really shouldn’t be hard. However, we know the entrepreneur’s all-too-real struggle of allocating time and energy to the many aspects of running a business. Ask yourself whether you have the internal resources to develop and execute a PR strategy, or if hiring a PR agency is worth the investment. Whatever you decide, these tips make a useful addition to your marketing arsenal.

Read more: Is hiring a PR agency worth it for my startup?