Most startups face significant challenges, such as securing funding, recruiting the best talent, or growing a customer base. A comprehensive PR plan partly addresses these concerns, translating into a formulation for a strong foundation when building a business.
With an appropriate communications strategy, you can achieve the right type of media coverage to produce the intended impression. Therefore, it’s helpful for startups to invest time and resources in public relations from the very beginning. If, for example, a potential investor wants more information about your company and starts researching your business, you would need to have built both credibility – including proof of concept – as well as wide potential appeal for your product or service.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges that startups usually face when it comes to PR:
- Establishing PR Goals: The challenge starts with establishing your PR goals. Before asking your in-house PR person or agency to step in, you need to know what you want to achieve. Every PR agency will need an answer to that question before establishing key messages, and subsequently a channel mix of “delivery mechanisms”. Are you looking for the PR plan to attract visitors to your product launch, increase market visibility or help you hire new employees? Once you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve at the outset, then your communications team can work to this common goal to give it every chance of success.
- Increasing Brand Awareness: The PR objectives of a startup and those of an established company are different. A long-running company may focus on announcing a new product as an addition to its product range, or a rebranding for the purposes of effective segmentation. For startups, it will take more than disseminating a press release to the media to get coverage in top-tier news and business outlets. A well-structured PR plan will seek to build – and consistently increase – your brand awareness. The aforementioned press release, for example, is a lever on the machine, not a strategy within its own right.
- Keeping your Business in the Media: Getting a press release out once a month will not do an effective job of creating awareness or building credibility by itself. It is vital for startups to build trust and authority within their own niche of expertise from the beginning as a means of mass-market differentiation from competitors who are larger and already established. This not only helps with securing funding, but also helps in positioning the brand in the mind of the consumer, and therefore beginning to build a customer base. By maintaining a regular presence in the media (one tool for which is the press release) and on social media, your startup will have a better chance of making an inaugural impact.
- Planning Ahead: Startups often neglect PR and marketing due to reservations of cost. Whilst running a startup is not an easy job, failure to prioritize your core communication strategy will leave you aimless and unsure of how to proceed via subsequent tactical steps. Leveraging the expertise of a professional PR partner can help you avoid costly marketing mistakes and amplify the value of your investments into product, patents, advertising and more.
With budgets tight, it can be difficult for startups to achieve media coverage. Financial constraints often limit startups to hiring few people for few departments, and they may be primarily focused on production and business development. Entrepreneurs sometimes forget that PR is one of the most effective ways to tell their story. It is a powerhouse which can generate buzz about the business on various platforms, and the integration of that mix can reamplify value of each component/effort. A well-placed op-ed in a renowned tech magazine could lead to a successful round of investment, or the right employee walking through your door at just the moment.
You can use the following tips to help your startup generate press for success:
- Start Early: Thinking of investing in PR, but only once your business is up and running? Implementing a PR long before you launch in the market, and you should look to take advantage of shorter agency retainer arrangements that are designed to meet those needs. An initial 3-month PR program to support your launch is significantly more affordable, and will offer you a wealth of value-added consulting, advice, support and access to connections you otherwise would not have had. It can also work out cheaper than ad spend, as well as offering access to a team of communications experts and marketers who will work with you effectively inhouse within your own company.
- Startup Story: Your audience will appreciate the story of how you overcame adversity to get your business off the ground. Brand storytelling is important and creates buy-in and loyalty. Media organizations are likely to ask you about your reasons for starting the venture, your unique selling points, the brand history and that of your own career, and also your concept and the inspiration for it. Long before you will be telling your story to media, you will need to predict the questions you will be asked, how best to answer them, and how to ably represent your key messages and core brand communication pillars. This is all part of the agency’s preparation with you, which will be done in close consultation to ensure it works well on all counts.
- Be Choosy: Refrain from sending out press releases simply on a basis of regularity. Aim to discover the unique facets and newsworthy elements that your audience and investors would like to know. This is the point where you will need to find the right angle to approach a journalist, and your agency’s media relations experience is key here. Once you have an idea of what is newsworthy for your audience, it will be easier to define key messages that deliver your punch and cut.
- Pitch Smart: Your pitch needs to be short, to-the-point and memorable, answering questions before your investors thought of them, as well and removing any doubt re financials that don’t add up. This approach works well with journalists, too. If they are able to fully understand the concept of your startup, then this lack of ambiguity is likely to result in more likelihood of the journalist being confident in running your story. Having data and numbers will make your pitch stand out; journalists appreciate hard facts and figures as they see this as being both timesaving for them and also contributing to general newsworthiness.
Launching a startup can be daunting. As an entrepreneur, you are accountable to investors, partners, board members and your employees. By implementing these simple tips, you can give a head start to your communications strategy, and also begin to develop an understanding of how an agency can help you succeed.