For a young, growing startup, public relations is a crucial element that often falls on the back-burner. When you’re focused on fundraising, building out your product, and getting it to market, working on a PR strategy likely isn’t a top priority.
This week, we’re talking about why PR is so important in aiding growth, and how when approached strategically, it can offer startups more than just publicity.
What is PR?
Marketing and PR are often confused as the same function, but in reality, they are really quite different. Boiled down, the primary aim of marketing is to achieve revenue by bringing potential customers into the “sales funnel.” And although PR tactics may also help drive revenue, the main goal of PR is building a positive reputation for a brand. Another key differentiator is that marketing is usually a paid endeavor (i.e; ads, sponsorship, etc.), while PR is earned (i.e. news coverage, positive word of mouth).
Why Does it Matter for Startups?
Some may assume that PR is only necessary for rebuilding a brand or for crisis management, but really, starting with a clean slate is arguably the best time to begin PR efforts. In addition to reputation management, it can be used to announce new product launches, partnerships, strategic hires, etc. For a young company looking to get their story and product out there, it can be an invaluable tool.
The Benefits of PR
Generally speaking, people are more comfortable with what is familiar. Whether that familiarity comes from personal experience or word-of-mouth. People are more likely to buy from a brand they know than an unknown, which presents a challenge for new companies. Through media exposure, PR can help new companies begin to build brand awareness.
Telling Your Story
People love stories, and PR offers brands a means to tell their story on their own terms. Good storytelling can humanize a brand, make it more relatable, and more memorable.
What a company has to say about itself won’t go far in terms of credibility, it’s what others say that really matters. One of the best ways to establish credibility is to get the attention of a reputable, unbiased source. A positive write-up in a respectable media outlet can go far in the eyes of a reader.
PR offers a means by which companies can flex their expertise and executive strengths. That can be in the form of thought-leadership pieces, contributed quotes, or even guest featuring on a podcast. By being active and present in the conversation, companies can begin to position themselves as thought leaders in their industry or market niche.
Another challenge many young companies have is attracting top talent. If a startup is making the news for positive reasons, it could draw in potential employees who may not have heard of the company otherwise.
Of course, positive media coverage doesn’t guarantee investors will take interest in a company, but it can demonstrate a couple of things to potential investors:
- That they are doing things that are newsworthy
- That there is a potential for public interest
People can’t buy things they don’t know about. While driving sales is a function of marketing, PR can also bring potential customers into the funnel through exposure. Most importantly, while marketing can be expensive, PR can drive sales at low to no cost.
Complementing Digital Efforts
One of the best things about PR efforts is that many of them feed into each other and support other business activities like marketing and social media presence. When done in tandem, PR can boost current social media efforts and vice versa. Social media profiles can be used to amplify earned coverage, share news, participate in conversations, and build relationships with current and potential customers. It can also be a place where brands can interact with the media and share their coverage.
When done strategically and pursued consistently, PR can do a lot for a brand. From building credibility and attracting the right people to boosting paid efforts, it’s an often-underutilized tool that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Next week we’ll be diving into the tactical side of PR, including how startups can flesh out their own PR strategies, best practices for reaching out to the media, simple ways to increase SEO, and more.