Doing PR for startups is no easy feat. Because you lack an established reputation, you need to work especially hard to get the media to pay attention to you.
You’re never guaranteed coverage, but there are ways to maximize your chances. Avoiding these rookie mistakes will increase your chance of success.
Waiting too late
Sending out a rushed press release the day before a major announcement is unlikely to garner any response. If it’s a multimillion dollar round of funding, you’re probably going to get some news coverage, probably in a local business news outlet. But if you want to maximize your reach and grow brand awareness, a last-minute press release won’t cut it. That’s because the reporters you’re targeting have already planned to cover other things. Nor are they likely to further cram their schedule for a company they’ve probably never heard of.
If you’ve got a major announcement coming, you should start preparing the PR outreach up to three months before. That includes identifying and connecting with reporters who are likely to cover the announcement, drafting a press release, planning a major push on social media and anticipating the questions you’ll get from the media.
Failing to research media
Sending out a generic pitch to 500 media outlets is not likely to succeed. Key to the success of a PR campaign is identifying the individuals most likely to run with your story. In most cases that means reporters who cover stories related to business and tech, but it could also be editors or news directors responsible for assigning stories.
Understanding what a reporter is interested in goes beyond simply knowing their news beat. You should research their past stories and social media activity to get a sense of their personality and the approach they take to journalism. They are more likely to be interested in your story if you can connect it to something else they have a particular interest in.
Does this take time? Yes. But it’s worth it.
Missing out on hot trends
Key to staying relevant amid the noise is to keep a close eye on trends and seasonal topics so that your communications align with what people are focused on at the moment. Startups without a dedicated PR resource miss out on what’s going on outside of their industry niche simply because their employees are too busy to pay attention to what else is going on in the world. PR professionals can help identify issues that the public and the media are paying attention to and figure out how to get your company involved in that coverage.
Underinvesting in PR
When it comes to PR, far too many startups operate under the flawed assumption that they can assign the role to a marketing person within their organization. How hard can it be? Eventually they discover that PR requires a special understanding of how to package up key marketing and organizational announcements in a way that interests busy journalists and ensures your key messages are delivered to your key stakeholders.
It’s serious business that requires people with a deep understanding of how the media works. To that end, it’s important to distinguish between marketing and PR –– marketing professionals are often unprepared for how to properly organize and execute an effective PR strategy.
Large firms and high prices guarantee better results
Don’t confuse higher prices with better results. Major PR agencies often justify high prices because of the experience of their senior executives, but they are unlikely to provide a small startup client with access to their top talent. In many cases, you’ll be paying premium rates to deal mostly with junior staff who are operating on a boilerplate PR template that is unlikely to reflect your company’s unique identity.
More than a few early stage startups have learned the hard way that the results generated by these kinds of premium agencies rarely deliver the expected results in the form of more media coverage, website traffic and leads.
Most early stage startups, and even those farther into their funding journey, are much better off exploring their options and considering a lean, agile PR agency that specializes in white glove service to tech clients. Not only will the rates usually be lower but you’ll also get dedicated attention from experienced senior PR professionals.
Startup founders tend to appreciate the importance of measuring outcomes and are reluctant to invest in marketing unless there are tools that allow them to view the concrete impact in terms of lead gen, sales etc.
And yet, when it comes to PR, many startups fail to build out the proper digital infrastructure to measure effectiveness. While good PR should produce benefits that aren’t apparent immediately, there are evidence-based techniques for measuring the impact of media outreach. For instance, including a unique landing page in press releases, monitoring web traffic during media campaigns and gathering as much information from leads to determine where they’re coming from can help you determine whether your PR approach is moving in the right direction or needs to pivot.
Not partnering with a PR firm
Many early-stage tech startups adhere to the lean startup methodology. That means that most will not invest heavily in marketing and PR until they feel certain that they have tested their key revenue assumptions. What’s more, PR is usually a lower priority in the marketing budget as it is not seen as a predictable generator of new leads, which is somewhat true.
Yet partnering with an agile PR firm can deliver outsized results for startups looking to reach a wider audience of potential customers. Agile PR firms are smaller and far better equipped to pivot messages and align with startups that are continuously refining their revenue models.
That’s why it’s wise for startups to engage in PR early and often as they move through their funding journey and accelerate their product innovation cycle. In a typical B2B customer journey, positive news about a tech startup from respected, 3rd-party sources like industry news outlets carry a great deal of weight during the product consideration phase — far more weight in fact than the typical self-serving marketing content that most startups generate.
The halo effect that positive news coverage can create is real and delivers meaningful outcomes. You need only follow our recommendations on measurement above to validate it.