Startup PR: Understanding the PR Tactics that Startups Need

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Launching a startup? You have a lot to do. You need to build a positive reputation for your brand. You need to woo investors. You need to attract top talent. You need to get the word out.

“Implementing an effective public relations strategy” might not be high on your to-do list, but is should be. All of the other items I have listed, and many more, get easier when startups have a good PR strategy.


What is public relations?

Public relations often gets confused with marketing, but they are not the same thing. Basically, marketing is communication that is designed to grow sales. PR is communication that is designed to grow reputation. (If you want a more in depth explanation, visit this recent blog post.)

PR focuses on media relations, rather than customer relations. PR efforts seek to get information about your brand in media outlets, building brand awareness through press coverage. If you want your target audience to see you as a trustworthy brand with reliable products or services, you cannot ignore public relations.


How can PR help startups?

If you are launching a startup, there is a good chance that you already have a product you intend to sell. There is also a good chance that there are other companies already selling similar products. Your success will depend on differentiating yourself from your competition. PR can help with that.

The more positive media coverage your brand achieves, the better your reputation will be in your industry. PR gets you that coverage. When you get featured in the local news or on an industry website — and your competition does not — you position yourself as a source of reliable information in your industry. If the experts turn to you when they need information, it shows that you are a trustworthy expert who, most likely, has a trustworthy product. The more coverage you get, the more you become the stand out choice for your target market.

PR also helps to attract the attention of other important audiences. Startups typically need investors. Startup investors want to know that the founders they back are authentic and reliable. When positive PR paints you as an industry expert, your value goes up with investors.

Startups also need to attract top talent. Building a strong team is on every founders to-do list. The best people want to work for the most promising companies. If you are the founder that is newsworthy, you will be the founder that people want to work with. At the very least, getting mentioned in relevant media outlets will attract the attention of those who are passionate about your industry.


What is unique about a startup PR strategy?

For startups, PR tactics will focus on building a reputation, rather than building on the reputation that a brand already has. The goal will be building a buzz by promoting your unique brand position and the new product or vision that you are bringing to the market. Whereas an established brand might use PR to promote a new product, startups will use it to promote the new idea that drives them or the new commitment they are bringing to the field. For established brands, PR outreach will be used to share how they have been successful. For startups, it will be used to suggest they are successful by leveraging the endorsement that the media outlet is supplying.

While the approach may be different, the tactics will be similar. A PR agency will still pitch engaging story ideas to relevant media outlets and influencers. It will still respond to HARO and Qwoted requests. It will still issue press releases to build media momentum. Pr for startups, just like PR for any brand, will focus on building media relations that inspire the target market to start thinking about the brand as the best option.


Is hiring a PR firm better for startups?

It is important for startups to think hard about whether you want your PR to be professional or DIY. Your budget may not have the room for expensive PR firms. In fact, your budget may not have the room for cheap PR firms. It might seem that you and your startup team will need to take care of the PR needs.

As you are thinking this through, keep in mind that professional PR teams bring expertise and resources that can take years for you to build. They have a list of relevant journalists, as well as influencers and bloggers, for a wide range of industries. Often, their media contacts reach out to them regularly looking for sources who can contribute to stories. You may be able to start building your reputation by posting on LinkedIn, but a professional firm can help you to get articles in Forbes. PR pros can also help with the technical side of PR, things like SEO and backlinks that will increase your chances of getting your company name in front of the right people.


A list of relevant resources for managing your own media relations

If you decide that hiring a PR firm is not an option, here are some resources that can help you to get your public relations activities started on the right foot:

  • The ultimate guide to PR – You might want to start with this post to get a feel for what is involved. You will find information on PR strategies and tactics, the differences between digital and traditional PR, and how to craft a PR campaign.
  • Ten top PR tools – Digitalization has brought many powerful tools to the PR world. If you are looking for something that helps you get noticed by a media outlet, check out this list. You will find tools for extending your reach, perfecting your timing, focusing your efforts, maximizing your results, and boosting your skills.
  • How to write a pitch that will make editors respond – A startup’s first connection with a reporter will often be a message – known as a pitch – offering a story idea. Your email pitch, no matter how great it is, will be one of hundreds, if not thousands, that the journalist receives. Click the link to learn how to make it stand out in the journalist’s inbox.
  • How to write a press release boilerplate – Press releases are an important part of PR work and boilerplates are an important part of press releases. They provide essential information on your brand that journalists and editors will need for news articles. Click on the link to learn how to develop a clear and concise boilerplate.
  • Where to submit a press release – Once you have written a great press release with a great boilerplate, you need to get it into the right hands. Click the link for thoughts on how to approach this as well as a list of 27 sites where you can submit releases yourself.
  • A guide to earned media and paid media – If you seek to become an effective practitioner of PR, you need to understand “PESO,” which is an acronym that stands for Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned media. The differences are important when it comes to PR. Which type works best to grab the attention of your target market? Read the post to find out.
  • Getting your bylines in top publications – If you really want to pull off powerhouse PR, you should aim for getting your byline in a top publication. In other words, you want to get an article that you have written — one which lists you, rather than a journalist, as the author — in a widely-read and authoritative publication. If you choose to do in-house PR, this is a lofty goal, but not something you shouldn’t shoot for. Achieve it, and it will help you increase your brand’s reputation in a significant way.

Download the list of relevant resources for managing your own media relations


Choosing a public relations firm

Hopefully learning more about the tools that exist to help you with your PR efforts made you feel empowered. If however, they made you feel overwhelmed, then a professional firm is an option. To find the right one, do some homework. Make sure they have proven success in your field. If you are a tech startup, you want to see that they get their clients in TechCrunch and other top tech titles. This post has more information to guide you on hiring a PR firm.


Use PR metrics to measure the success

Whatever course you choose, do not think of it as “set it and forget it.” Doing PR well involves being active. Track your successes and make sure that you are getting the results that you expect.

Are you getting a better rank on search engine results pages? Are you getting more traffic on your website? Are you getting new clients? Is the quality of the outlets in which you are appearing increasing? These are some common signs that your PR efforts are succeeding. If you are not seeing these things happen, you may want to tweak your approach or start relying on a different team.

Nik Korba

Nik Korba

Nik has been a screenwriter, ghostwriter, novel writer, song writer, and blog writer with a degree from the University of Miami. He has prepared communications for thousands online and on social platforms, as well as being involved in the production of more than 1,000 videos.
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