Hey man – I just launched a cool new startup. What PR advice can you give?
There are a million pieces that go into running a successful startup. Whether it’s designing and developing a viable product or bringing in the right partners, employees and funders to help advance your dream, as a founder it’s hard to find time for everything.
Public relations (PR) is often overlooked or delayed until you can afford to hire an expensive firm (if you’re at that stage, my email is below!) or bring a communications director in-house.
While there is definitely a right time to bring in a PR firm, you shouldn’t be waiting to begin telling your story and positioning your brand. A well-placed op-ed or profile article on your company could lead to a successful round of investment or the right employee walking through the door. You should never underestimate the power of positive press coverage to help move your business forward.
That said, it’s understandable if you don’t have the time to devote to establishing a robust communications strategy early in the life of your startup. However, there are a few simple things you can do that will lay the foundation for future success.
1) Capture your story
Whether in a journal, vlog or even on a tape recorder, it’s imperative that you capture your story somehow. But remember – your story isn’t just a chronology of events that led you to where you are today or a list of specs that make your product better than any other product on the market. Your story is the “WHY?” Why did you start the company? Why is there a need for your product? How has your product helped early adopters? By capturing this information, you’re setting yourself up for success when you go to talk with a PR firm or reporter about your brand.
Reading is fundamental to both personal and professional growth. You’re probably already checking the local trade publications to see how your competitors are doing or what regulation is coming down the pike. The next step is to start a list of the reporters and publications that cover your industry. Build a list of names and email addresses that you can use when your company makes its next big announcement. Take this one step further and send reporters a note every now and again if they write a positive story you agree with or if you have a different take on an issue they’ve covered. This lets them know you’re paying attention. You can even offer to meet them for coffee, laying the groundwork for a future relationship.
3) Create Content
Whether it’s a short video update on the company or important industry developments; a 600-800-word op-ed in your local paper or influential trade publication; or a blog post on your company page, it’s important to set aside a few hours a month to create some content and begin to position yourself and your company as leaders in the industry.
If you follow these three simple steps, you will set yourself up for success when it comes time to engage with a PR firm or hire an internal communications director. You’ll have set the foundation of the story you want to tell, identified and cultivated relationships with reporters and influencers, and created content to which you can point potential investors, employees and reporters.
Running a startup is a challenge, but hopefully this makes it easier to tell your story right off the bat.
Brad Williamson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Senior Account Manager at Pinkston Group.
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