By Howard Oliver, Founder and CEO, What If What Next – Tech PR
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR.” Similarly, Richard Branson has noted: “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”
A recent Nielson study concluded PR is 90 per cent more effective than advertising. Some 80 per cent of business decision-makers prefer learning about companies through articles instead of advertisements.
PR works and its role – to establish and maintain relationships with your target audience via the media and other opinion leaders – is important. It’s especially important to the successful launch of startups, enabling them to secure critical early customers, attract investors and build a community of influencers around them.
So where to begin on a PR program for your startup?
1) Be ready. If your product is not the best version of itself, no reporter will cover you, and you can experience backlash and negative press. Make sure you are completely ready before employing any PR strategies. Avoid vapourware!
2) Create your story: Ask your team and trusted advisors:
• What is our identity, what are our values and company culture? What are the three things about our business that matter? What was our journey in establishing your company?
• How are we different from our competitors? What was the discovery process like to build our product offering? What are the three things that are different about our product or service and what are our proof points?
• What are the two or three problems our customers have today that we will solve or improve?
• Who are the important members of our team and what do they bring to the table?
Write two paragraphs that summarize these answers. The end result is a story that is worthy of your customers’ attention, and that will help you communicate consistently to the world.
3) Create a media kit: It should include your press release, a company history, pull quotes to choose from, images, video, and pre-validated customer/analyst references. Also, think of adding FAQs, e.g., when the company was founded, who the backers are and so on. Click here for an online example.
4) Use social media to build your media contacts: Begin to follow relevant journalists, reporters, editors, bloggers, and influencers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. Provide valuable interaction with your targets, re-tweeting or sharing their content, answering their questions, or sharing helpful information.
5) Scan the news on an ongoing basis: Use services like Google Alerts and HARO (Help a Reporter Out) as opportunities to start a conversation.
6) Agile media campaigns: When you have legitimate news – a product launch, new partnership, new team member, award, or similar, tell your story in a blog and also use it as a press release. Use your Facebook page, Linked In and other social media channels. Having cultivated a list of media people and influencers, send them your story. Introduce it with a carefully thought out “pitch letter” tailored to their interests. Make someone available for an interview, offer contributed content (i.e., you write an article). Have relevant content – a case study, white paper, infographic, video or article on your website with a form.
7) Your CEO should be a thought leader: Find industry trade publications or blogs that cover your turf, and reach out to them about contributing guest articles or interviews. Link back to your website putting yourself in front of a valuable customer or contact.
8) Respond to the media: If you get a call from a reporter, ask what they cover, what their story is about and what their angle is. Find out their deadline. It’s okay to ask for 10 minutes to think about your answers and then get back to them. But always respond immediately to acknowledge.
9) Press interviews: Identify the top three messages you want to convey, and then craft your talking points around them. Everything you say during an interview should point back to those key messages and support your “story.” These messages should be short and quotable. BTW, there is no such thing as “off the record.”
10) Consider hiring a good PR firm: They will have pre-existing media relationships and help you create your brand narrative, effectively communicate your story to the right people, create thought leadership opportunities for your CEO and establish an engaging social media program.
Remember to craft a compelling story and get out there at every opportunity to tell it. Do the work, be “customer focused” in serving the needs of the journalist and his/her readers and the coverage will come.
Contact us to receive a complimentary review of your next media campaign plan and press release.
About the author: Howard Oliver is the founder and CEO of What If What Next and a PR Advisor at the RIC Centre. The firm offers PR and Marketing services for technology companies. Howard has been a technology visionary, entrepreneur, writer, content builder, thought leader, PR maven, and business development executive. 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. Reach Howard at 416-568-5254, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.whatifwhatnext.com.