PR Basics for Startups – How To Get The Most Out Of PR?

PR is free publicity for a startup and when done well it delivers phenomenal ROI. PR is mostly used for two main purposes. One, to build your company image in front of future employees and investors. Two, to bring in leads for your business. Let us quickly understand what it PR, why you need it and how to use it?

What is PR?

PR is when a newspaper or a blog writes about you without getting paid. It is different from advertising and advertorial. When you advertise, you buy space and place your ad creative. You can say anything in the space you have rented. An advertorial is sponsored content. It will look exactly like a regular article but will be tagged ‘sponsored’ and you need to pay for it. Out of the three, PR is the most credible source.

Why you need PR? What are the benefits?

Because it is almost FREE and delivers extremely high ROI with great credibility attached to it. Instead of you buying ad space and telling the world about your new feature, why not organize a press conference and announce the news to the world?

You will invite journalists from relevant newspapers, TV channels and bloggers from your domain. They will go back and write about your product feature and about your company. Your desired audience will get informed from a credible source.

Press conference is the most costly PR vehicle. As a startup, you will start with meeting journalists and bloggers one on one. You can even organize round tables and get 4-5 bloggers together and share the news about your startup.

There is a catch though. PR is not a one-off exercise. It needs to be done fairly regularly else the journalists and bloggers will forget you. You will need to build a rapport with them. As a result of this relationship, whenever there is an industry story the journalist will call you for a byte. Eventually you will emerge as a thought leader in your industry.

But why PR? What is the benefit?

  • Good impression on investors – When you eventually approach investors, they will Google you and find lots of PR mentions and news. This will have a positive rub-off effect on you. If people are talking about you, you must be good. This is what behavioral psychologists call the ‘social proof’.
  • Attract potential employees – The same is the case with potential hires. Every prospective employee will search you online before thinking of joining you. The more you get covered in blogs and papers, the better you must be.
  • Get leads – PR is also a good traction medium depending you what business you are in. Do regular PR in the blogs and newspapers that your target customer reads online and offline. The first step of marketing is increasing awareness and PR will do a good job for you. Leads will start to flow in once people read about you, your success and your features.

How and when to use it?

Newspapers and blogs are meant to carry relevant and exciting news. If your news (product / feature launch) is exciting and newsworthy and makes sense to the readers of the newspaper/blog – you will get good coverage. The bigger the news, the more the coverage.

Use press conferences for major news like a path-breaking innovation or a major breakthrough. For other news, stick to direct outreach.

Early on in your startup journey, build direct rapport with a very limited number of bloggers and journalists. Approach the ones who write regularly about your industry.

As a young startup, even if you get coverage in two or three good blogs, the other bloggers and journalists who read that blog will approach you and do a story on you. PR has a cascading effect and spreads from one blog to another. No one wants to miss out on exciting and relevant news.

Maintain direct relations with journalists and always respond to them if they want your byte on a breaking story or a government regulation relevant to your industry. Remember that journalists and bloggers are hard pressed for time and you need to respond quickly and feed them with relevant content.

Bonus Tip – What gets a reporter’s attention?

Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, in their bestseller TRACTION, suggest a few newsworthy events.

  • Launching a new product
  • Breaking a usage barrier
  • Raising money
  • Special industry report, and
  • Big partnership

Get the most out of PR. Approach the right blogs and papers. Approach them often. Approach them with something newsworthy. Ensure the story is of benefit to their audience.

[About the author : Vivek Singh is the founder of Jazz Factory, a presentation design and consulting firm.]

Image credit: shutterstock

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