The right attention at the right time could be the difference between your startup becoming the next Amazon or fading into oblivion. Having a great idea that solves a problem is an important part of the journey, but you also have to make sure people know about it. With the right startup PR tactics, you can get the word out without blowing your budget.
Craft a One-Sentence Value Proposition
If you want people talking about you, you need to make it easy to do so. Think about some of the best one-line value propositions:
- Slack: Be more productive at work with less effort.
- Apple iPhone: The experience is the product.
- Uber: The smartest way to get around.
They tell exactly who the company is and what they’re doing. Even with Apple’s more vague value statement, the connection to iPhone tells everyone that it’s a phone designed to create an experience.
Your value proposition doesn’t even need to be catchy or unique. Many actually piggyback on the most successful startups by calling themselves things like “the Uber of dog walkers” or “the Amazon of dog food.” You just need to come up with something clear, direct, and easy to remember so that when customers and reporters talk about your startup, they know exactly what to say to help others understand your brand.
Build Your Foundation
If your PR campaign is successful, people are going to want to learn more about you. That means making sure your website and social media channels are ready to go before you get press.
On the technical side, you want to avoid things like the Shark Tank crash by being ready to handle additional capacity if you receive a surge in interest. Many entrepreneurs who have appeared on the show wasted much of their opportunity when their websites weren’t ready to handle the influx of viewers when their episodes aired. Instead of receiving hundreds or thousands of quick orders, they were forgotten by the next commercial break.
In addition, you need to be ready to close the deal. At minimum, this means strong website content that describes exactly what consumers are getting for their money and pushes them towards the purchase. Your social media channels should be active with a steady flow of posts, photos, and responses to customer questions.
If you don’t have these basics down, people won’t have the confidence to do business with you. Hold off on your PR campaign until you’re ready, as you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Separate Yourself From the Pack
If you’re selling hamburgers or offering a delivery service, that’s cool, but what separates you from everyone who’s already doing that? Why is it interesting to talk about you?
Brand new inventions often generate interest on their own, but most business innovations are only an incremental improvement over what’s been done in the past. Your job is to describe the changes you’re making in a way that builds excitement. Is it life changingly easier? Do people get to try out a new experience? Are you an expert with the answer to longtime problems? Whatever it is, you need to tell a story that makes people want to talk about you instead of your competition.
Figure Out Who to Target
Think finding a journalist to talk about you will be easy? There are actually six PR pros for every one journalist. With all that competition, the trick is creating a story that the journalist wants to air.
This comes down to doing your homework. Read the local newspaper, listen to a different radio station each day, and watch the morning, evening, and weekend news on each local network. You should see common themes in which types of businesses they like to talk about and if their focus is on food, human interests, activities, or something else. If you’re targeting a specific niche, take a similar approach with tech blogs, industry journals, or anything else that might be a good fit.
What you’ll likely find is that even though there are more PR professionals than journalists, they’re often pitching stories that don’t help the journalist. If you can explain exactly how your business fits the mold and is something their audience wants to hear about, you’ll have no problem getting coverage.
Know How to Write a Press Release
Writing a press release is kind of like writing a resume and cover letter. You want to brag about your company, but you need to match it up to what the journalist and their audience are looking for. CBS News recommends you follow these five rules:
- Use your press release as a sales tool. The information you include should boost your credibility with the audience to build your authority and make them more likely to buy from you.
- Be newsworthy. Have something that grabs the interest of even those who won’t be customers, or it’s just another add.
- Write like the reporter. If you make their job easier and give them something in their preferred style that they can use with little work, they probably will.
- Provide quotes. Quotes make for easy headlines and an easy way to remember you. Include quotes from your leadership in the press release to help the story come together.
- Reach out personally. Personal contact with a personalized message will almost always beat mass cold emails that are quickly deleted and forgotten.
Need helpful press release examples, templates, and tips? Check out this blog post from West Digital Media, you can download a number of free templates and follow along as they give specific instructions on how to craft a press release.
Keep Funding Talk Separate
Use caution when you’re announcing funding for your startup. Press releases for funding rounds have their place when you’re trying to build credibility with investors, but they should generally be separate from other PR campaigns. There are a few reasons for this.
- You don’t want to come across as if you’re trying to raise money. Many journalists won’t cover you if they think it’s an overt sales pitch.
- If you’ve successfully raised money, it may hurt your image as a local entrepreneur building something new from scratch.
- You could create unrealistic expectations if people get the impression you’ve raised Jeff Bezos money when you barely raised enough to buy more inventory.
- You don’t want to have to worry about lawyers and SEC offering rules.
Think about it like talking about your job with a stranger. Talk about how you make the world a better place and how you enjoy what you do, but don’t share your salary.
Track Your Responses
Like any other business activity, your PR campaign is an investment, and you should track your return on investment. Even if you’re only spending time, not money, that’s still time you could be putting into something else.
In addition to the basics of monitoring website and foot traffic, use special landing pages, links, and coupons to directly identify who is coming to you as a result of your campaign. Don’t be afraid to ask customers how they heard about you in-person or through surveys. If you’re not getting the response you expected, go back to the beginning and adjust your campaign. If you’re getting good results, keep doing what’s working while looking for ways to build on your story to get repeat coverage.
A smart PR campaign can be an easy, cost-effective way to get the word out about your startup and find new customers. To make it work, you need to understand who might be interested in your business and what they want to hear about it. Once you’ve figured out how to separate yourself from the pack, you’ll see your profile steadily rise.
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