In short, it’s never too early to start PR for your startup. But you need a few things in place to set you up for success.
PR for startups is a brilliant way to grow your brand, profile and business, and compared to some other marketing practices, can be relatively low cost if you think creatively about how you go about it.
So, if you're thinking about it and want to get started, here are six top tips you need to know before you do.
1. Know your goals
The opportunities for PR are endless.
It sparks conversation. Shapes how you're viewed by your customers and the wider industry. Establishes your credibility. It can attract investors, drive leads and most importantly, support the growth of your business.
However, just like everything in business, you need to have a clear understanding of your goals and what you want to achieve from your efforts. Ask yourself, what does success really look like?
Perhaps you're looking to increase brand awareness, educate a specific audience or establish yourself as a thought leader.
These are great goals to have, but choose a few and stick to them.
If you’re looking for a quick marketing hack that will drive instant revenue, then look elsewhere. PR is not the solution.
2. Think about your audience
It’s easy to get lost in the romantic idea of having your business written about by the BBC or featured in The Times…
But let's imagine you’re a B2B SaaS platform in a niche category. Are these national titles really the right place for your business?
Or could you, in fact, gain more value from placing stories in industry-specific publications, that are read by your customers and peers?
Something to think about.
3. Building the story
We all want the big headlines and prime-time stuff.
But let me tell you now, these do not come over night. Reputations are built and most journalists will not have heard of your startup before. So you'll need to educate them.
How do you do that?
Well, the best way is to start small and build momentum.
Every conversation with a journalist, and every piece of coverage you generate will form the basis of your PR efforts going forward. It builds a picture of your business in the media and establishes you as a trusted voice. So the next time someone Googles you or your business, guess what they'll read?
And trust us, journalists use Google more than most.
4. Make time for PR
As a startup founder, it's probably safe to assume that you don't have bags of time to spare.
Wearing five different hats from CEO, to head of marketing and HR, your time is precious.
So you probably don't want to hear this, but PR takes time.
Crafting the right story for a specific journalist, following up only to hear nothing back. Not to mention all the back and forth if a journalist does engage with you. And then, when you do get your story covered, you need to ride that momentum and it starts again. It's all about consistency.
Unless you're willing to stick at it and build time into your week for PR, you're never going to benefit from the impact it can have.
5. Make sure your messages are aligned
To achieve effective PR results for your startup, you really need to ensure you have an established marketing strategy in place that is performing well against your objectives. Then, it's important to ensure your PR efforts complement this.
There's no point saying one thing in your social ads, and saying a completely different thing in an interview with a journalist.
Keep banging the drum and deliver a consistent and unique message. This is what people will know you for.
When you do start getting results in PR, amplify them across your marketing channels.
Share your coverage on personal and company social media accounts (don't forget to tag the journalist). Include links in your customer emails and add them to your website too. It all builds credibility.
6. In house, freelance or agency?
So, you know your objectives and you've identified your audiences.
But maybe you don't have the time to commit. Perhaps you've tried and haven't succeeded. Or maybe things are going well and you want to increase your efforts.
What are your options?
Freelance: There are plenty of great freelancers who can help, and many have industry specialisms. You pay them for a dedicated amount of their time each month, and they bring their contacts and experience. This is a great place to start and the flexibility means it can be very cost effective.
Agency: PR agency teams have a wealth of experience, contacts and specialisms which will really supercharge your efforts. Perhaps you're getting ready for a big launch, or gearing up for some company news, dealing with some crisis management or simply want to invest in PR as a key pillar of your marketing mix. They should act as an extension of your team, understand your brand and provide consultation on how to take PR to the next level. But they will still need management, so you'll need to think about who is best placed in your business to maintain and cultivate that relationship.
In-house: Hiring an in-house PR Manager is something you should think about when things are going well. Like really well. Well enough to take up someone's whole day, five days a week well. This is a great hire when you're looking to expand into other markets. They should work closely with all areas of your business and any agency teams to ensure that communications are aligned.