What befuddles (and bedevils) founders and marketing leaders of tech startups is how to get their company featured in the news. It’s non unlike the old adage: which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
To get a better handle on PR for startups, it helps to be honest and admit that not all startups are created equally. Some take longer to have the ‘right stuff’ – stuff meaning newsworthy topics and announcements – that will interest news outlets.
Other startups, however, seem to win media coverage early and fairly often. Needless to say, they are in the minority.
If you’re a marketing professional leading a team at an early stage startup, or a startup founder herself, you may be wondering what it will take to start the media tap to flow in your favor.
PR for startups from the tech startup pros at Swyft to help you solve the age old chicken-or-egg dilemma:
PR for startups takes time, and setting the right expectations. In other words, don’t expect to get an article written by Christopher Mims about you published in the Wall Street Journal within the first few months of starting a PR strategy.
Not to worry. There are PLENTY of other news outlets available to startups that will help them establish their credibility, expand brand awareness and build the sales funnel.
The key is to ask yourself where your primary buyer personas find their news. Unless you are targeting the C-suite, more often than not your BPs are spending their time reading niche industry publications to keep up with the latest and greatest. These vertical pubs love to write about new innovations and movers-and-shakers within a given industry.
You should also investigate the competition to see what publications regularly cover them. Make a short list of these high-potential publications and start nurturing relationships with their reporters and editors – both through email and on social media (Linkedin and Twitter preferably). Over time, with the right PR strategy, they will reward you with beneficial news coverage for much less effort than is required by tier-1 pubs like WSJ and Forbes.
Think like a PR pro
You may not have a PR professional on staff, or have the budget to hire a tech PR agency in Austin like Swyft. Does that mean PR for startups isn’t worth pursuing? Should you give up all hope of winning any news coverage for your early stage startup? Of course not!
All you have to do is ask yourself why a journalist or editor should care about or want to share your company’s news with their audience. Dig into a media outlet’s past coverage of your industry to see if there are any patterns to how they cover tech news in your industry. Train yourself to think like a journalist.
Once you see the topic angles that tend to get covered in a given news outlet, try to package your news up in a similar way. In other words, don’t send a product data sheet with a standard sales pitch and expect to win the interest of a busy editor. Answer the why, who, what, when and even how questions about your offering as succinctly as possible.
The most common opportunities for an early-stage start startup to obtain news coverage include some of the following:
- New product launches
- Existing product extensions
- Geographic expansion (e.g., a UK tech startup opens an office in Austin with plans to hire 15-20 engineers and CSRs over a 12 month period)
- Executive hires
Any one of these topics can potentially interest an editor or journalist covering your industry, so plan to reach out to them well in advance of the actual event.
When at first you don’t succeed…
You guessed it. You try, try, try again. And Again.
The key to success when it comes to PR for startups is to not give up after your first efforts falls flat. Keep at it. Experiment with different story pitches. Look for hot trends in your industry to which you can attach your product offering. Reach out and introduce yourself to journalists and editors of your favorite industry publications. Meet up with them at trade shows you plan to attend.
As you seek to deepen your connections with key media operatives, just remember that they are a very busy bunch and have a lot of requests for their time and interest. When communicating with them via email, phone or in person, show respect for their time, always stay professional and keep a positive attitude.
Swing for the fence
In baseball parlance, swinging for the fence means going for the home run. In PR terms, that means pitching your company to tier-1 pubs like the aforementioned ones.
When planning to pitch pubs with millions of readers, keep in mind that your chances of success are extremely slim. Yet despite the long odds, they’re still worth the effort. Provided you’ve done your research and aligned your pitch to a hot trend in tech. And are prepared not to succeed. And hedge your bets pitching your tried-and-true industry pubs as described above.
Just know that some journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day, which means they may never respond to your email. Don’t take it personally.
Keep trying with a variety of pitch angles. Timing is everything. PR for startups is a war won over time, not in the first three months.
On the off chance that you do get a response, and it’s positive, then be prepared to respond to the journalist’s questions as though your life depended upon it. Your startup’s coverage almost certainly does. If you are slow to respond, the journalist may lose patience and either drop the story or seek out a competitor for their point-of-view, giving them a juicy quote instead of you.
PR for startups can be daunting, especially for early stage startups seeking its first round of media coverage. If you start feeling a little overwhelmed, contact us today to learn how the PR pros Swyft can help you win the media attention you deserve.