PR isn’t an elixir
Many startups plow crazy sums of cash into ensuring they get covered by the top media outlets. In some cases, particularly with early stage startups, every cent of a marketing budget goes on PR.
As someone who manages a PR firm, you might be surprised to learn I consider this a mistake.
We’re firm believers that a great PR campaign should form part of a wider marketing strategy, and should dovetail with other initiatives to maximize impact.
In conjunction with an ad campaign, a social strategy, SEO spend (or whatever makes most sense for your startup), you’ll find that various channels amplify each other’s impact, and deliver a significantly better overall bang for your buck.
Don’t sell to the press
A reporter’s job is to tell a story, not to sell your product or service.
You can make their lives a lot easier, and significantly improve your chances of getting great coverage, by giving them the story of your startup or relevant stories related to your company. Make it brief and make it compelling. Don’t give them the sales pitch.
This should apply as much to your media content as to your in-person briefings.
Think about it from a time-poor journalist’s perspective: the companies and products they’re going to cover regularly are those that consistently serve them great editorial angles, not advertorial fluff.
PR takes time
It’s true that you can get coverage pretty quickly.
Build a great story, knock-together a punchy press release, pitch it to the right reporter and, with a little luck, you’ll hit the headlines.
But quick coverage wins does not a great PR campaign make.
You’ll get some traffic, you’ll get some attention and you’ll probably get some new users. The light will burn bright for a brief moment, but it will fade fast and you’ll soon be forgotten.
The key to building brand awareness and cementing a market position is consistency and perseverance. The startups you know about are those that are constantly engaging with the press and getting regular exposure in a range of relevant outlets.
PR isn’t a vanity exercise
Every conversation we have about new PR campaigns with current and potential clients starts with a question: What do you want the PR campaign to achieve for your business?
“I want to be in the WSJ and Techcrunch” isn’t a good enough answer.
Every cent you spend on PR should be channeled into delivering media coverage that helps achieve specfic business and marketing objectives.
A better answer would be: “I need the credibility of appearing in a national newspaper like the WSJ, and major tech blog coverage to help put us on the radar of the investment community.”
PR isn’t rocket science
…although many agencies would have you believe otherwise.
For this reason, we regularly urge bootstrapped startups to engage in some PR activities themselves. If you’re smart about it, there’s actually plenty of tactical stuff you can achieve in-house. We’d be happy to give you some pointers on this during one of our monthly WeWork office hours sessions.
PR firms really earn their stripes, and offer huge value, when it comes to developing and delivering strategic campaigns, handling multiple channels and geographies, and engaging with the very highest-tier media outlets.
But not every startup needs this off-the-bat, however. A DIY approach can pay dividends in the very early stages of a startup’s life.