No matter whatever opinion you have, the reality is that public relations is crucial to every business, especially the startups. But before discussing more about that, let’s consider the modernized definition of public relations.
According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Today, we live in a socially connected world where public relations has become even more significant. A right tweet or a brand mention from the right person can get you more market exposure than your entire advertising campaign. Imagine a mention from the leading publication platforms like Mashable, Forbes or TechCrunch etc. They are no small feat; rather, such mentions can actually help you build a winning PR strategy.
For example, a nod from industry influencers like TechCrunch can make or break the public relations for a startup related to technology. And to quote Dave McClure’s tweet, “TechCrunch don’t pay the rent.”
pro tip 4 startups: focus on customer reaction 2 ur product, less on investor / press reaction 2 ur pitch. @techcrunch don’t pay the rent.
— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) September 23, 2012
Understand that your potential customers are looking up for your products and services online. They are following tweets from influential people and industry experts, reading reviews, and are also sharing their experience with your brand with their peers. And a proper PR strategy will help you use all these communication channels to your advantage.
Here are top 3 reasons why contemporary startups should consider investing in PR:
It Helps You Tell Your Story in the Best Possible Way
What’s the most exciting aspect of your business; something that’s newsworthy? It is of course your story. PR, first and fore mostly, allows you to talk about you, including your experiences, the idea behind your startup, factors that drive you, and so on.
People out there want to hear your personal stories and if done rightly, telling your story can open up a lot of opportunities for you. Square, for example, won big by telling people their story as a part of their PR strategy. As Square’s Director of Product Communications and Marketing, Khobi Brooklyn made it a point to make the rounds with the press whenever the company launched a new product feature. She selected publications that are specific to their particular line of work in order to appeal to prospective customers.
When launching its appointment management tool, the company never said “how it works.” Rather they got testimonials from salon owners using Square and “showed” how valuable and effective their product is. Also, note that Brooklyn approached press specific to their particular industry. The lesson you need to learn here is that your story will not appeal to all industry outlets; what you need is a focused approach that will help you introduce your product to the right audience.
For this, you will also need to have a clear vision of the story, something you really belong to. Next, make a list of the top media outlets and blogs relevant to your domain and reach out to them. Also, start building content through your startup’s blog that demonstrate not only your expertise but also your purpose of being.
These are basically enough to build your foundation so that you can start telling your story to the world. But if you aren’t sure about how to tell your story, there are professionals who know how to tell a good story. All you need to do is get out there.
It Helps You Make Friends, Not Just Contacts
As a startup, you need to develop and maintain strong social relationships with the media. And do to so, you need to make friends and not just contacts. When all you have is just dozens of contacts, your sales pitch hardly makes any impact. You are perhaps trying your best to state your case, but it will still be just cold calls for your contacts and all your efforts will be wasted. Worst still, your media contacts are more likely to think that you are just trying to reach out to them for coverage, lacking the authenticity that social relationships require.
If you want to make a lasting impression on these people, you need to think beyond these cold emails. But you need to perform certain reality checks here. Do the writers have the ability to cover your story? Do they really understand what you want? Once you are clear about these, you need to consider another factor: What is it you are offering them, apart from your story?
Enters social relationships. You need to invest in a relationship and make friends with these media people, otherwise chances are slim that these writers will invest their time and effort in your startup willingly. The secret lies in cultivating a genuine relationship and it’s two-fold.
- Develop a strong relationship
- Say thank you
Media people will listen to you only when they are sure that you really care about them and their audience. A proper PR strategy helps you to get to know them. When it comes to reaching out to your media friends, do anything but annoy writers with your cookie-cutter emails. They can easily understand a mass email and this isn’t a good news for your startup’s reputation.
PR is Affordable
Startups almost always run short of money. You have to invest your time, resources, money and energy on so many things to make your product or idea work. As a result, spending money on your marketing plans often takes a back seat. But you need to get the word out about your startup, without which you are more likely to fail in your attempt.
PR is your secret weapon to ensure your success in the marketing world. Why? Because it not only helps you to reach a larger and influential audience but also costs less than advertising. And when it comes to adding credibility, nothing can beat an effective PR strategy. It has a simple winning formula: Tell your story clearly and truthfully through the most relevant media outlets. If done right, this can help you convince the most skeptical consumers to invest on your brand.
Besides, you can quickly develop a PR packaging of your story by simply combining the right kind of text, video, images and graphics. The cost of such PR packaging is usually a fraction of what you would otherwise have to spend on advertising and large-scale marketing campaigns.
For a startup, it is always about quality over quantity. Focus on developing strong relationships with the relevant media outlets, creating more and more friends out there. Convert your existing contacts into something more meaningful and personal; and PR is the tool to do it. Be truthful about yourself as well as in your approach. Make sure your core key messages articulate your true business value when going public. Members of media can spot a lie miles away and doing so will only ruin your market reputation even before you actually step into the marketplace.
With the right kind of PR strategy, you can launch your startup on the right foot. Set your priorities right!