Ran Blayer is the founder and CEO of perceptionstrategic reputation management and digital communication agency.
It is often said that “all publicity is good publicity”. In reality, this is a misleading phrase and assumes that a company has the luxury of choosing between different types of publicity. If only there was an endless stream of media possibilities. The reality is usually very different for emerging startups. Getting some media attention can be a challenge. Most startups know that earned column inches and airtime can be huge assets. However, few really know how to achieve it.
This is partly because every startup is unique. No two startups can tackle the exact same problem with identical solutions. As a result, no PR plan will work across the board. While there is no exact template that fits everyone, there are some guiding principles that will help you maximize the potential that PR has to offer.
Make PR an integral part of your planning. Good PR is not a one-time event; it cannot be plucked from thin air. With so much for a growing startup to consider, PR is too often an afterthought with little or no budget. It is also often not considered in the very early stages. But if you want to get it right, PR should be at the core of your planning, alongside product development, design, finance, marketing, and all the other components that make a start-up tick.
If you don’t follow this approach, your startup will fail to reach its potential. At crucial times, when, say, high-quality media coverage would impress potential investors, options are limited at best. On the other hand, leveraging quality PR can yield a real financial benefit. For example, Pockit, a UK-based fintech company that provides services to the underbank, used a compelling report to safe cover in the Guardianthe BBC and elsewhere in 2019. They completed a successful Series B round of funding the following year. Such prominent media coverage would certainly have impressed investors. Ultimately, good news does not happen by itself. It is a process that requires nurturing and development. It must be part of the plan.
Quick and easy messages
Identify important messages quickly. Competition for media coverage is fierce. Journalists are bombarded with pitches and potential stories, especially in the tech space where virtually every company thinks it has a story to tell. What distinguishes your product or brand? What is your company’s unique selling point?
To attract media attention, you need to be clear and simple about the problem your startup faces and how you solve it. If you struggle to get this basic story across in a short, sharp way, you’re unlikely to catch the attention of a busy journalist.
Of course, every startup should aim high. You passionately believe in what you do, so don’t be afraid to shout about it. However, not every startup will make it New York Times or CNN. At least not right away. Perhaps there is lower hanging fruit that can have an impact on your target group. The trade media in your industry can be a good starting point and often an effective way to influence stakeholders and potential investors. Coverage in smaller publications also helps build a track record of your media presence. This helps establish legitimacy for your business, giving it extra authority when pitching a story to leading media titles.
Being realistic also means making sure your news is real news. For budding executives immersed in their work, what may seem like a major development may not really be news in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, journalists report items that will interest their readers, listeners, or viewers. So your new brand launch may be a milestone for your business, but ask yourself if it’s news to anyone else.
The long game
Finally, play the long game. Unless you have really breaking news on the front page, good PR rarely happens overnight. Don’t be impatient. Don’t just spread a press release far and wide and hope for the best. The dream article about your startup is likely to happen because you carefully maintained a relationship with a journalist over time. To get to this point, you need to make every effort to understand exactly what the journalist is looking for. You will have to earn each other’s trust and respect for what you both do.
In other words, good PR has to be earned. It is the result of careful planning, a compelling message and a determination to really deal with journalists. It may sound daunting, but there are plenty of experts out there who can help you achieve this, as long as you have an appropriate budget planned. And once you get your PR right, the benefits can take your startup to the next level.