6 PR tips that most startups ignore

What do you do when you’ve spent thousands of dollars building a great company with great products and a great team? You tell people about your company, usually through marketing and PR.

It’s a waste of money, in my opinion. Well, yes and no.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring a PR agent – they’re experts at building relationships with your audience – but do some planning ahead of time, and you’ll save about half of the fee.

Startups could be doing a lot themselves to get eyes on their products, but from what I’ve seen, few actually do anything about it. I’ve gathered some of the best tips below, but don’t take them as advice. Take these tips as suggestions. There are so many articles telling startups what they should do, but (hopefully!) every company is different, so the same thing won’t work for all of them.

1. Build a network

Seriously, you’ve probably heard this so many times that you’re inclined to close this tab on your browser and keep browsing the web. Don’t.

I like to think that my network is fairly large because of NZE. A lot of people involved in startups will know who I am when I say I’m from NZE, and it doesn’t have to be any different with you and your startup.

  • Be interesting. Don’t be scared of being weird or not fitting in. Startup culture is all about being different.
  • Go to meet ups. You’ll meet people, and they’ll meet you. People always talk about who they met.
  • Don’t be shy. All of the people you’re talking to at meet ups are probably experiencing the same troubles you are, even though they’re probably not showing it.
  • Connect on LinkedIn. I used to hate LinkedIn because I thought it was too corporate. It probably is, but it’s also a chance to connect to investors and other startup entrepreneurs. Twitter is not personal enough. Facebook is too personal. LinkedIn is just right.
  • Blog. Create media. I love reading blog posts about startup’s progress – their mistakes and small victories. It gives me the sense that I know you, and when you release a new product, you bet I’ll be sharing it on my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • If you want to blog for us, just shoot us through an email!

2. Plan and target

I recently talked to a startup that said they wanted to be in NZ Herald and Stuff. That’s great! But how many of those readers will actually convert to sales or users? How many readers are you reaching? Here’s some tips on picking publications to feature in.

  • Scroll to the bottom of the website, and click on “Advertise” or “Media” or “Press.”
  • Most sites will give you a demographic or psychographic of their readers, which is used for advertising purposes.
  • Compare this to the profile you’ve created of your ideal client, customer, or user. If you’re reaching execs, you’ll find that NBR is a far better fit than NZ Herald Business, and it’s probably easier to get into as well.
  • After you’ve made a list, you can take it, as well as some collateral to a PR agent (or NZE Services.)
  • Here’s our Advertise page as an example.

In terms of planning, I hope you’re prepared for a lot of users. There’s nothing more embarrassing (or exhilarating) than having your site or app crash due to a server overload. Also, plan your marketing and social media efforts to compliment the PR you’re getting.

  • Promote your pages and social accounts to the demographic of the outlet your startup was featured in.
  • Example: The Internet Party got a lot of TV, Radio, and Print exposure. They targeted their Facebook page to the demographic and psychographic of the media’s readers, watchers, and listeners, and they soon acquired more genuine likes than the National Party. This was because the people they targeted it to were familiar with the name and branding they had already been exposed to through the media.

3. Market yourself, create relationships

This is building on my first point. People connect with people. Many times startups see the “media” as big scary corporations that may or may not like what their story is.

In everything we do in business, it’s important to remember that every organisation is built by people, and if you can connect to those people, you can connect to the organisation.

It’s no different with the media.

4. Present to media yourself

A PR agent has contacts, relationships, and experience with media. There’s no reason why you can’t have at least 2 of those things – probably not to the extent they do, but enough to get the job done.

  • When pitching, research the person you’re going to be speaking with. Don’t contact a beat reporter about your tech startup.
  • Don’t just email. Most journalists will get at least 20-50 emails a day from people wanting a story on them. You’ve got to be different. Call first, and ask if they want you to send them an email. Be different.
  • Court the media. Many times we’ll connect a startup to an influential outlet, and they’ll wait for the journalist to contact them. There’s thousands of stories these journalists can run each day. Be proactive in how you deal with them. Make their job easier.
  • Give scoops. Everyone likes to have the first story, or the inside scoop because it’s fresh to readers, and it helps search engines. On top of that, it raises the profile of the media organisation. Be selective with your exclusives though. Make sure they count in terms of audience and readership.
  • Be nice. This goes without saying, but many startup entrepreneurs’ estimation of themselves is larger than reality. People connect to people, and if you’re not friendly and polite, you’re probably not going to go far.

5. Hire a PR agent/firm

When the time comes for you to get some outside help, present the agent/firm with a clear brief. Outline the outlets you think are beneficial to your brand, write down your key messages, think of some angles you can take, include your expectations, and write down your time frames. Along with that, include a brief on your company, team, and resources. PR shouldn’t be seen as a standalone service. It should be seen as part of a larger campaign to create relationships with your audience, and present them with your messages.

The PR agent/firm will probably scrap most of the plan, but that’s fine. You’ve saved about $500 – $1,500 already by giving them a clear idea of who you are, what you’re doing, and what you want from them. You’ve given them time frames, expectations, and have even done some of the research for them. When they’re billing you at $250+ per hour, doing just 6 hours of homework can save you a few thousand.

6. Don’t stop there

The single biggest thing people forget about PR is that it’s all about relationships, and as we all know, relationships take time and work. You’re going to want to create strategies that you and your team can execute yourself, with support from an agent or firm for the bigger campaigns.

If you need help with some of your PR strategies, and even some execution, feel free to get in touch with us through NZE Services. I’ll personally do my best to help.

Did you find these tips helpful? Tell us what advice you have in the comments.

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