Public relations can mean the difference between success and failure for start-ups. Many well-known start-ups including Airbnb and Tesla Motors owe much of their success to effective PR.
Start-ups often delay PR until their product is ready for launch or at least out of beta testing. But PR does more than support product launches. It’s a valuable tool for gaining investor attention and support, a critical resource for start-ups, and for preparing the marketplace. The first requisite for successful start-up PR: Start long before product launch.
With outstanding PR, even a seemingly boring start-up can win attention in a crowded market. Conversely, businesses with worthwhile concepts may go unnoticed due to lack of good PR. Entrepreneurs handle their own PR at times but typically turn to experienced PR consultants so that the principals can focus on core product development.
Start-up PR specialists offer these tips to win all-important media attention.
Create a concise summary. Like the infamous “elevator pitch,” it’s a one or two-sentence explanation of what the company does and what makes it distinctive, without industry jargon, to help readers understand and remember the company. That’s challenging yet extremely important for hard-to-understand technology companies. Beware of analogies. Describing a company as “like United Rentals, but for your own possessions” can help people understand the company but may diminish the brand. In addition, some people may not understand the analogy.
Ascertain what’s newsworthy. Find what’s different or important about the start-up. Sadly, many start-ups simply aren’t newsworthy, because they aren’t unique or don’t offer any added value beyond their existing competitors,” says start-up tech journalist and PR expert Erica Swallow. If that’s the case, consider revamping the product.
Document the start-up’s journey from concept to launch. Relating the start-up’s trials and tribulations can gain support and publicity. Reality music shows like X Factor and America’s Got Talent follow this approach. Interview key team members, including investors, separately. Then combine their answers to summarize the company history and explain its products.
Start early. Public relations activities require three to six months of planning. Developing relationships with media contacts and analysts before product launches can win more favorable attention than first contacting them when the product actually launches.
Educate the customer base. Well before product launch, develop PR materials that inform the customer base on the problem that the forthcoming product solves – without ever mentioning the product. Focusing on the customer’s problem helps create a new product need.
Know what’s news. Pitching only what’s newsworthy will produce better media relations. Besides the launch of a company or product, ideas include new research, the company’s response to a current event, beta-testing results, regulatory reviews, and news of a high-profile partnership. “The story must be new, unexpected, and/or resonate with the journalist’s readership. Jumping straight into product features and benefits all but guarantees failure,” says Max Marine, director of business development at Venture1st.
Develop engaging content. PR pros hold varying opinions of press releases: Some say they’re outdated; others say they remain a valuable tool when used correctly. Press releases may seem impersonal compared to the more interesting communications methods now available. An engaging video can capture attention on social media. Providing prospective customers or influencers a “behind the scenes look” at product development or allowing them to beta-test the product can pay enormous dividends.
Get analytical. Apply PR measurement to link the PR investment to measurable business objectives. Number-orientated technology experts at start-ups appreciate standardization and predictability. For that reason, they may be uncomfortable with PR, which can be challenging to standardize and quantify. “Start-ups should approach marketing and PR with a focus on quantifiable analytics, and they should look for those PR agencies and in-house hires who think likewise,” Joanna Jana Laznicka, publisher of VC-List.com, told Entrepreneur.
Feature the founder. A charismatic founder and his vision attracts media attention and is crucial for successful PR. Realizing that, many PR pros now favor releasing news announcements through the founder’s blog post rather than a traditional press release.
Avoid common PR mistakes, such as automated pitches, extravagant launch parties, too many follow-ups, ignoring publications’ deadlines and lead times, and poorly timed launch dates.
Bonus tip: Keep at it. Focus on gaining more publicity instead of remaining content with publicity already gained. Apple founder Steve Jobs always urged entrepreneurs and businesses never to be rest on past accomplishments, according to Pressfarm. He felt that too many businesses made the mistake of relying on previous success instead of pursuing even greater heights.
Bottom Line: A comprehensive public relations campaign that starts well before product launch offers valuable benefits for most all start-ups. Creating a groundbreaking product is not enough. A company must create a product need and publicize the product to attract customers and achieve quick success that is sustainable.
This article was first published on the Glean.info blog.