In last week’s blog, we discussed the benefits PR can offer startups and why it’s so important to include it in an overall communications strategy. This week, we’re walking through some tactical moves startups can make to begin building out their own PR strategies.
Before launching a full-blown PR strategy, your house must be in order. This includes cleaning up your website, optimizing for SEO, and updating social media profiles. In a digital-first age, these will be the basis for most people’s first impression of your company.
Messaging across your website and social media profiles should be consistent and professional. Again, these are often the first impression people will get of your company, so make it count. Difficult-to-navigate design, missing or unclear information, and low-quality images or graphics should be rectified as soon as possible. For the social channels you have chosen, make sure that the profiles for each are complete – this means a relevant and high-quality profile image, contact information, and a link to your website.
Pitching to the Media
When to Reach Out
Any seasoned PR professional will tell you that pitching takes preparation and practice. It also requires the ability to approach things with a journalistic eye – what would a journalist find newsworthy? Some good topics are:
- New product launches
- New features/major updates
- New partnerships or collaborations
- New major investors
- Published primary studies or research
- Upcoming events
Compiling a Press Kit
Before pitching, you’ll need a press kit. These make journalist’s jobs easier, and if you can lighten their load, they may be more likely to work with you again in the future. A press kit should include:
- A one-pager with bios of the founders/executive team
- A one-pager on the company that includes:
- What the company does
- When the company was founded
- Where the company is located
- What products/services are offered and when they were launched
- Portfolio clients
- Where products/services can be purchased
- Any certifications or awards
- Major investors and fundraising stats
- High-res logo
- High-res headshots of founders/executive team
- High-res photos or videos of the product/service/app itself
- Contact details
There are two versions of a press kit – one you send to media, and one that lives on your website. The one that lives on your website should be housed under a “Press” section and should also include any press releases and links to past media coverage.
Building Your List & Making Your Pitch
List building requires a lot of research. To begin, you’ll need to make a list of media outlets that seem like they would be a good fit. Of course, everyone wants to make it on to FastCompany or TechCrunch but shooting for smaller publications may be more realistic starting out. Typically the more niche, the better. From 3D printing to sports betting, there are publications for almost anything.
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of outlets that make sense, begin to compile the contact information of journalists who may be interested in your story. Read their recent pieces and check out their tweets to get a good idea of the kinds of topics that they cover and are of interest to them. If you want to take it a step further, consider following them on Twitter and engaging in their content. That way when you pitch them your story, they may already know who you are.
Other Ways to Generate PR
Pitching to the media isn’t the only way to get PR for your company. The best PR strategies take a multi-faceted approach.
Thought Leadership Content
An excellent way to build a positive reputation (and your SEO ranking) is to position yourself or your company as a thought leader or expert within your niche. This can be done by writing blog posts for your own website, publishing stories on Medium, guest blogging on other sites, or contributing articles. The best thought leadership pieces offer readers valuable content and avoid obvious self-promotion.
Another way you can position yourself as a thought leader is to become a source. An easy way to do this is to subscribe to HARO. HARO is a database where journalists can submit requests for sources for stories they’re working on. When you register as a source, you will receive daily emails with source requests. If a request matches up with a topic that is relevant to your company or industry, you can respond to the masked email listed in the source request. If the journalist is interested in your pitch they will reach out to you.
Hosting & Attending Events
Depending on what kind of startup your company is, hosting or participating in events could be another way to garner positive publicity. Big or small, arguably the most important factor in pulling off a successful event is providing attendees (who should ideally be made up of your target market) something of value.
Building out a PR strategy may seem time-consuming and overwhelming, but the hardest part is the beginning – once you’ve built it, it’s more about maintaining forward momentum. When well planned and executed consistently, PR can become an invaluable part of your overall growth strategy.