The Art of PR for Technology Startups March 11, 2016 RICCentre By Howard Oliver, MBA, Founder & CEO, What If What Next The art and science of PR, properly deployed, is critical to the success of a start-up. Media coverage can help you get noticed, build your brand, attract staff, get your first group of paying customers, attract investment and attract partners. The timing of when to go out of stealth mode to protect intellectual capital or maintain first-mover advantage is something to carefully plan out. Once you decide to come out of the cold, it is critical to have someone on your team that has strong PR chops or to hire a PR firm to help you out. You only get one chance to make a good impression and these folks can help shape your story for the media, make sure it is heard by key industry reporters and media and likely have the relationships in place to get you critical coverage. What PR People Do PR professionals excel at: Telling stories that resonate across multiple channels clogged with competing messages Contributing critical, creative and strategic thinking, yielding stronger branding that resonates with media & stakeholders Crafting the right media messaging, shaping the story and identifying the right journalists and media to create relationships with Communicating brand images through creative launches, high-profile partnerships, speaking engagements and other media initiatives Anticipating latest communications trends Stretch marketing dollars, repurposing content to deliver 2, 3 and 4 times the number of media impressions versus a 1 traditional placement What Your PR Person Should be Tasked With To dig deeper, your internal PR resource should be assigned the following responsibilities: Develop a media relations plan including strategy, goals, budget and tactics Draft public/media relations materials (press releases, media pitches, talking points) Serve as liaison to external media relations firm Monitor, analyze and communicate quarterly PR results Provide editorial review of all self-written and team generated copy, with emphasis on accuracy, completeness and strategic marketing effectiveness. Assist in the development and execution of wide-ranging, proactive and innovative media and public relations programs to communicate and advocate for priorities and business objectives and support overall positioning and branding strategies (including marketing sponsorships) Plan and execute all aspects of proactive and reactive media relations for company Manage relationships and cultivate new contacts with key media outlets, publications and journalists Coordinate regular pitches to target media list Build and maintain the company’s media kit and web page(s). Identify opportunities to position company spokespeople as thought leaders by the media Manage outside PR firms to ensure they are meeting local/firm goals and draft pitch-briefing documents to share with the company’s PR agency and relevant partners; act as the primary, day-to-day contact with the company’s PR agency Write and edit press releases, media alerts, in-house newsletters, speeches and articles Focus the company’s efforts in key strategic markets such as the US, in order to raise the Firm’s profile and assist the company in achieving the established objectives in these markets Organize media events, such as press conferences, and coordinate media interviews Coordinate placement of all PR related material on external Web site Help to coordinate firm’s social media efforts How to Pitch The Technology Media To finish this piece, here are suggestions for pitching your story to especially the technology media: Write a media release that captures your story from your customer’s perspective. Provide information that solves a problem. Have a link back to your website providing more content to generate leads and inquiries. Post the release via a service to achieve broad distribution. Create a media page on your website to contain all media releases, media coverage and a media kit that can be downloaded as a PDF. Initially target 25-50 relevant reporters to develop an ongoing relationship with. You can’t boil the ocean.Connect to reporters and editors via Twitter and LinkedIn. Choose a reporter and editor that fits your story. CC all correspondences to the editor. Look at the editorial calendar of the media to see what stories are planned. Understand the writer’s interests, themes and most importantly how your idea would help them extend their reporting. Think through your pitch with the reporter’s eyes – how will this piece be of interest to the reporter’s readers? How will it meet the criteria of the publication? Pitch the story via email first. Customize the letter as much as possible mentioning the reporter’s previous pieces. In the pitch letter, provide links to the media release, videos and other content. Send a follow-up email with additional information as appropriate. Call a few days later referencing your email that you can re-forward. When you call get to the point and respect the reporter’s time. Do NOT call back repeatedly. Respond quickly to the reporters requests for the interview. Conclusions: Use PR to Support Your Strategic Goals To conclude, consider which activities will support your strategic business goals. If you’ve already developed your product or service and you’re preparing to go to market, your PR efforts should be focused on test-driving your messaging with target media, industry influencers and analyst communities who can help build your market positioning. If you’re not quite ready for that step yet, but you know it will be important to have market authority and an audience before you get there, you might dedicate your early PR efforts toward creating inbound traffic to your site through media coverage focused on industry, management or leadership topics; blog content; social media; and other organic methods. Think about where your company is today, where you need to be in six months and then commit to one or two relevant tactics. Set specific, consistent weekly, monthly or quarterly output goals, and determine which metrics you’ll use to measure their impact. Overall, make sure to include PR in your plans. Get the resources you need and reap the benefits. Contact us to receive a complimentary PR Road Map Spreadsheet Template to achieve your PR objectives. About the author: Howard Oliver is the founder and CEO of What If What Next and an IoT Volunteer Advisor at the RIC Centre. The firm offers PR and Content Marketing services for technology companies with a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT). Howard has been a technology visionary, entrepreneur, writer, content builder, thought leader, PR maven, and business development executive. He provides leadership in the application of Agile and Lean project management methodologies. Clients recognize him as a results driven, highly creative and disciplined thinker. Howard holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. He is a spiritual seeker, avid sailor, and collector of books.