In essence, PR for startups is how you cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with the public and generate positive brand awareness as your startup grows into a full-fledged enterprise.
While bigger organizations can afford to work with professional PR firms to expertly manage all PR-related affairs, your humble startup likely doesn’t have the budget to do the same. That being said, there’s a lot you can do yourself to build positive PR for your startup.
Why do startups need PR in the first place?
Earned media in terms of brand mentions, product reviews, and features is far more effective than branded content or ads in every stage of the purchase funnel. In fact, 92% of consumers trust earned media — aka PR — over traditional ads.
To be more specific, here are just a few of the many benefits of focusing on PR for your startup:
- Building brand credibility
- Increasing investor morale and supporting fundraising efforts
- Helping to attract top talent
- Facilitating omnichannel online visibility for your startup, from tech blogs and magazines to social media
- Improving customer acquisition and retention rates
And that’s not all. To witness these benefits yourself, however, you have to control how the public perceives your startup. If you don’t proactively create and promote your own story, then the public will craft its own narrative for your startup on which you’ll have little-to-no control.
Your brand messaging largely decides whether your startup will succeed and so, you must consistently reiterate who you are, instead of leaving it to the public.
With the importance of startup PR crystal clear, here are six battle-tested tips you can implement right away to succeed with your startup’s PR efforts.
How to do PR for your startup to get noticed
Have a clear goal
Before you do anything, your first step needs to be setting a clear goal for your PR plan. Ask yourself or brainstorm with your team the “why” behind your upcoming PR efforts.
Is your goal to gain attention for a new product launch? To build brand awareness and thought leadership in reputable magazines? Or to showcase the fast growth you’re achieving and encourage investment?
With a clear goal, you can then craft a coherent PR plan for your startup with a unique value proposition (aka why should anyone care), and also determine the exact audience you are trying to reach.
Do your homework and perfect your pitch before hitting “send”
The journalists you’re about to pitch most likely get hundreds of similar cold pitches. The last thing you want to do is send a generic or uninteresting pitch that gets lost in the noise.
Start with finding the right journalists to cover your story. Then, take the time to do detailed background research before you pitch. Read their past stories and try to figure out what makes them tick. Mention their past work in your pitch if it’s relevant — it shows you know who you’re pitching to.
Moreover, provide as much context as you can. Why did you choose them in particular? Why is your story useful to their audience? How does your story stack up against their top-performing ones?
And before you hit “send”, here are a few best practices to perfect your pitch and stay out of their trash can:
- Keep it succinct and get to the point quickly. Aim for no more than 6-7 sentences in the body of the email.
- Craft an outstanding subject line that catches their attention. Keep it under 70 characters and use easy-to-understand action words instead of complicated jargon.
- Use small paragraphs and break up the text with bullets and white space.
- If possible, include facts and figures for credibility. These could be results of a recent survey you conducted or case studies.
- Pay attention to the time zone difference and schedule your pitch to be sent in the morning when they start their day.
- If you send a templatized pitch to multiple journalists (not a good idea, better to pursue only one journalist at a time), do not forget to personalize each and every detail to each recipient.
Ultimately, it’s all about finding ways to provide them with value, instead of making it about you, which leads us to the next tip…
Make your story newsworthy
Besides all the things discussed in the previous tip, a great way to capture a journalist’s attention is to actually make your story newsworthy.
There are three key elements to newsworthy stories:
- Timeliness: Analyze the latest and greatest in your industry and mold your story to what’s happening right now.
- Relevance: Find out what the journalist has been writing about lately, and tailor your story to align with their latest work.
- Uniqueness: Approach your story from a fresh angle or provide an eccentric argument, rather than playing it safe.
If you’re a completely new startup, a newsworthy angle could be about why you came into existence, what makes you different, or how your audience can benefit from you. It could also be about the Founder’s backstory.
For a more mature startup, newsworthy topics include:
- Launch of a new product or feature
- Release of a comprehensive study or research
- New executive hiring or expansion to a new location
- Response to a current event (such as going fully remote due to the pandemic)
- Announcement of a high profile partnership
Once you have your newsworthy angle for your story, you stand a much better chance at getting noticed and accepted by a relevant journalist.
Form relationships with journalists
While cold pitching works, it’s a good idea to start forming relationships with journalists before you need their help. This way, when you do reach out for work, you’re not just one of the countless strangers vying for their attention.
Think about it — wouldn’t a journalist be far more willing to oblige if you’ve already built a rapport with them months before the pitch?
So, relationship building can be pivotal to your startup’s PR efforts. To get started, follow them on Twitter and engage in “human” (not branded) interactions with them over tweets. Be a part of the discussion over threads and contribute to the conversation in a helpful way.
When they tweet something you find interesting, such as their latest op-ed, you have a chance to start a meaningful conversation. And they’ll often tweet when they’re looking for sources — feel free to pitch in only if you feel you’re relevant to their needs.
You can also look for mutual friends in your network who can introduce you to journalists.
In your initial interactions with journalists, make it a point to not promote your startup. Rather, try to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Let them see you as a person and not a brand promoting its interests.
This way, they’ll be more than happy to work with you when the right opportunity arrives.
Try guest blogging and reverse pitching
Besides pitching journalists to write stories about your startup, you can get your name out there by lending your industry expertise and thought leadership to high-quality websites and business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
If you’re just starting on your startup journey, getting published on such websites could be challenging. But as you gather more experience, it’ll become easier to craft engaging and interesting articles that these high-authority magazines would love to publish.
You can also partner up with bloggers for creating guest posts. In doing so, you attract niche audiences that previously didn’t know about your startup.
Also, you can try reverse pitching — a PR strategy that flips the process by allowing journalists to find you rather than you hunting them. Platforms like SourceBottle enable journalists to submit requests for sources and find the right stories.
Once you subscribe to become a source on these platforms, you can respond to these requests and connect with the right journalists to pitch your startup story.
Talking about platforms and tools…
Use the right PR tools for startups
To make life easier, you need to arm yourself with a set of proper PR tools for startups. Here are a few must-haves:
- Prowly: From finding relevant media contacts to sending visually-appealing press releases, this is the tool with everything you need to get press as a startup,
- BuzzSumo: The tool you need to find top-performing content, influencers, domains linking back to your competitors, trending topics, questions people are asking, and more.
- Mediatoolkit: The go-to software for monitoring websites, social networks, blogs, and forums. It sends you real-time mention alerts, allowing you to react to news fast.
Most of these have a free plan that’ll likely cover your basic needs, and others are affordable, making them perfect for effective startup PR on a shoestring budget.
Over to you
Startups are usually too busy perfecting their product and growth marketing. However, for a growth model that puts the customer first, leveraging PR for startups should not be an afterthought.
To summarize the above-mentioned tips for startups: start by identifying your PR goals, work on crafting a great pitch, craft an interesting story about your startup that’s relevant to a journalist, and use the right PR tools for startups.
Capturing positive media limelight may feel like a tall order, and it is, but by using the tactics discussed above, you’re sure to see strong results for your PR efforts. Good luck!
Cover photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash