How to Toot Your Own Horn: PR for Startups

So, you’ve launched (or are about to launch) your business. What’s next? One major “to-do” to tackle is Public Relations, or PR. PR is how you promote your company, or how you ‘toot your own horn’.

What exactly is PR?
The first thing you are going to need to do is understand what PR is. PR is not marketing, though the two often go hand in hand. Marketing, 99% of the time, is paid promotion for your company. PR is mostly free, other than your time (and the cost of bringing on an agency if you decided to use one).

What kind of tasks are under the PR umbrella? Everything from media relations, to social media, to conference prep, to guerilla and PR stunts, to copy writing, to crisis communications. Want some more specific examples? Check out The Agency’s services list, or our case studies for more in depth examples.

Media Relations
I have written extensively on how to pitch the media (check out my three part Pitching 101 series), so I’ll run through this aspect quickly. Media Relations is a cornerstone of the industry, and is one of the most well-known tactics of PR. So, how do you do media relations for your startup?

One – Understand what is actually interesting about your story. What sets your startup apart from other similar companies? What’s your hook? It’s important to know so that when a journalist asks “Why should I care?” you will have your answer ready to go.

Two – Do your research and pitch the right people. The person who covers the political beat at any outlet is not going to care that you just launched your startup, and you will just annoy a journalist for not researching who you are pitching.

Three – When you are ready to pitch the media, keep your message simple. Also, make sure that when you send the pitch, you get the journalist’s name right. Another PR Pro-Tip? Customize your pitches and don’t be annoying.

I’m not kidding don’t be annoying.

If you do nothing else, make sure you sign up for the Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) service. HARO connects you to journalists who are looking for sources for specific stories. Your submission won’t always get picked, but it’s a great way to get media coverage when you do.

Thought Leadership, Your Blog, and Content Creation
The Agency - April 2016 in post imageThought leadership is an alternative way to promote your startup and yourself as the Founder. Thought leadership is a round-about way of promoting your startup, where instead of talking to a journalist or writing a blog about your startup, you talk to them about a topic that is related to your company.

Here’s an example: You are a startup in the IoT space working on building your product, and your CEO is an expert on building businesses. One way to build credibility is to start commenting on what is going on in the industry and writing articles that can be published by third party websites. You can show your expertise, and people interested in finding out more about you will visit your website.

One great way to build your thought leadership profile is to use the blog on your site and your startup’s social media channels. By creating content that is of interest to your target customers, you can then share it on social media and catch their attention.

Agency or DIY?
When we first meet with companies who are considering working with us, we inevitably get asked the following question: “Why should we pay you to do this when we can do most of the work ourselves?”

Our answer? We’re experts in our field, we’ve done this before, and we have relationships with journalists that you don’t have. The truth is that you can do this yourself. Many startups do their own PR – but often get mixed results. Sometimes they knock it out of the park, and sometimes the initiatives fall flat. At some point you will have to decide what your time is worth, and what you should be spending it on. Should you be writing a blog post and doing social media, or should you be hustling for sales and building your customer base? Whatever answer you choose is correct. But it’s important to know that at some point, your answer will be “getting the sale/running the business,” and that’s where an agency comes in.

These are just a few tactics that startups can employ when they are starting to do PR. Like building your startup, start small and scale up your efforts as you grow and figure out what you are doing. That way you won’t give your startup a bad name and you will see the returns on your PR efforts.

Do you have any other tips to share or questions about doing PR for startups? Reach out to us in the comments below, or on twitter at @PRTheAgency. We’d love to chat!

The Agency - April 2016 Thought Leadership post