When it comes to PR for startups, we’re dealing with a good ol’ chicken or the egg scenario.
See if this scene sounds familiar…
New startup needs positive media coverage to create buzz. Buzz is needed to create a solid customer base and attract investors. Investors and customers are needed for funds.
Usually, the startup needs the funds first to hire a PR agency in order to secure media coverage that helps them land the investors and the customers in the first place.
However, without investors and customers they don’t have the cash for PR, and without a solid PR strategy they don’t have the earned media coverage.
To address this issue, startups commonly will straddle the line and invest here and there in a few PR efforts (meaning, they’ll throw some inconsistent spaghetti against the wall…and hope that it sticks.) A press release here, a PR stunt there. A few bad hires on Upwork, a lot of promises, and no media coverage. It’s stop, start. Stop, start…until nobody believes that PR actually works.
The problem with that outlook is just like with any good (and worthwhile) marketing effort, a one-and-done approach never works – and when it comes to a bomb.com PR strategy for startups, aggressive consistency is not just key, but absolutely critical to building brand awareness and credibility online.
So, what’s a startup to do?
Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to do everything in your power to catch media attention from day one. The minute your startup is out of stealth, the clock has started ticking on your brand narrative. Whether you’re taking control of it or not, that’s up to you. But make no mistake, it exists. The question is, would you rather control it, shape it, design it for the public – or let the Internet gods decide your brand’s fate?
If you’re reading this, we know exactly what category you fall into.
After 15 years of working successfully with early stage companies, we have a few simple, but knockout PR strategies to help you get ongoing press for your startup.
Become the Subject Matter Expert. Mention Steve Jobs and you think Apple. Think Bill Gates and Microsoft. Their names are synonymous with their companies – and yours should be as well, especially if investors, an exit strategy and acquisition is on your wishlist. Startup founders can take a similar approach by becoming a contributor to outlets like industry blogs, columns, podcasts, or webinars. The key here is aggressive consistency. Not shooting for one big name contributor spot and then done.
Increasing your visibility not only increases the association that your audience has with your business, but when you start dropping knowledge, you’ll increase your reputation as a credible startup founder, which helps you land better and bigger PR opportunities on the regular.
Get Social Media Savvy. Social media makes a lot of startup founders groan (confession: myself included!). In everything that a startup founder has to do in a day, it can be so easy for social media to get the short end of the stick and end up on the bottom of the priority list.
Instead of thinking about social media as a pointless posting tool that just shows the general public that you’re alive (and maybe generating some awareness here and there) , think about it as your own media platform. All the hot-takes you want Forbes to start publishing about you and your company? Start posting clickable content and “newsworthy” content right, smack on your socials.
We promise that if you start thinking about social media as a place for cutting-edge and newsworthy sound bites, your social media presence will greatly improve and reporters will be more apt to cover you and your startup. Also, as you get social media coverage don’t forget to post those hits regularly to your social channels. Earned media used as social media content is one of the most valuable types of social and content marketing you can deploy.
Don’t Rely So Heavily on Press Releases. Whenever you think about public relations, it’s almost always synonymous with a press release. After all, how else is the press supposed to know that you’ve closed a significant round of funding or that you’re preparing to launch your next big product or feature? However, press releases are not the be-all-end-all that startup founders hope they would be. Unless you’re Meta or Apple, or have raised millions of dollars (and even then) the press release is just one part of a bigger PR strategy for startups.
In fact, one press release per quarter is plenty. The knee-jerk reaction might be to create a press release for every bit of news that you’ve got, but at this stage, building individual relationships with 3-5 reporters and creating what we call a “press runway” with consistent coverage is far more effective for startups.
Adopt a Journalist’s Mindset. Time to put yourself in a journalist’s shoes. Sure, your product is revolutionary and just may change the world. But journalists hear the same thing all day, every day and you’re just going to end up being ignored if you approach your PR strategy from that angle. A journalist’s focus is their audience… if their audience doesn’t care about what you’ve got, neither will they. There are, however, a few things you can do to change the narrative which is good news. For example, tying what you do to current events, relating it to what they have already written about, or providing a truly unique and fresh perspective will go a long way to helping your publicity cause. At Pink Shark PR, we call it finding “the story above the story” because nobody cares that much about a product or service on its own.
Be Patient. Successful PR strategies don’t just happen overnight. Building relationships with the media takes time, persistence, and give and take. Over the years, I have watched many budding PR strategies die early and unfortunate deaths due to a lack of patience. And if we’re being totally honest, startup founders rarely have a reputation for patience. Keep in mind that public relations and earned media coverage is a long-term game. Keep putting your name out there, keep being a friend to reporters and the more your audience sees you and associates you with their cause or interest, the more respect and trust you’ll build.
Your startup may be new, but your press strategy can be pro right from the start. And a startup with a pro PR strategy is well on its way to hitting funding, customer, and revenue goals months (even years ahead of its competitors) and in many cases is the difference between a startup that makes it…and one that doesn’t.