For even the greenest entrepreneurs, it’s obvious that if you’re going to get your startup off the ground, you need to drum up a considerable amount of publicity. What’s less obvious is how to actually do it. There are so many opportunities out there for startups to connect with their existing and potential customers while cutting out the middleman of mainstream media. But while social media has made it possible to reach a wide audience on your own, the fact is that the major media outlets – online or not – still command the lion’s share of the public’s attention. They’re largely still the gatekeepers that decide what gets airtime and what gets pushed to the side. Not to mention, traditional media coverage shows instant validation for your product or service.
Simply put, you’re going to have to find out how to get yourself in front of the journalists, pundits and personalities that shape public opinion if you want to have any hope of attracting the audiences – and customers – you want. Fortunately, there are ways to do this effectively even if you lack significant funding or connections. Here are six cheap/free tips to get you started on a PR campaign for your startup. But take note, just because they don’t cost money doesn’t mean you can shortchange these strategies in terms of effort or time spent.
1. Understand your audiences
When you’re devising a PR campaign, you’re not just planning on how you’re going to talk to your prospective customers. You also have to figure out how you’re going to get the attention of the media. You have to craft your story to make it appealing to both media members and the portion of the public you wish to reach.
For example, do you want investors, consumers or both to engage with what you’re saying? If you’re crafting a PR campaign to help you reach people who may want to fund your company, perhaps you’ll look for a dominant trend that’s getting a lot of media play and show how you fit into that so they can compare your offering to other proven winners. Know what your target audience wants to hear about and tailor everything else to that.
2. Become a reliable resource
Thought leadership, particularly among your senior management roles, can be a huge asset when attracting the attention of the media. Often, when we talk about thought leadership, it’s in regard to our own branded assets: blog posts, videos, op-eds and other proprietary items that feature our thought leaders’ perspectives. But that’s not all it’s good for.
Offer your commentary to journalists and pundits looking for a unique take on the news of the day. This may not directly promote your business, but it will get your name out there and help you build relationships with members of the media. By acting as a key resource now, you’ll make valuable connections that will serve you well later when you want to promote your own work.
3. Start local
It’s easy to look at the Ubers and Snapchats of the world getting massive international coverage and think, “That’s what I want too!” It’s fine to aim high, but you need to temper your expectations when you’re starting out. What gets overlooked is that all of the startups you hear about on the evening news spent months, if not years, building up to that.
Don’t aim right for the big leagues right out of the gate. They’re often much harder to get featured in and won’t bite on a story unless there’s a big payoff for them to do so. Start local – pitch some of the smaller news outlets and even bloggers in your geographic area. Many of them are actively seeking out interesting things to feature, and if you pitch it right, they’ll be happy to cover your story. If you can generate some buzz on the local level, it’s likely that bigger outlets will want to pick the story up since they know there’s an audience for it.
4. Deliver an incredible pitch
Even small media outlets receive pitches by the boatload day in and day out, and at this point, most of them have seen it all. With this in mind, you need to find a way to not only get your key selling points into your pitch, but also make it engaging and actually worth producing.
This should be done on an outlet by outlet basis – no generic pitches for you! Here’s an example: If you want to get some coverage in a media outlet that covers interesting marketing news, maybe you could position your pitch to explain how you used a certain marketing strategy to attract your first 100 customers.
Regardless of what you’re doing, each pitch should be unique and clearly valuable to that specific outlet.
5. Write and distribute engaging press releases
It’s okay if you rolled your eyes at the mention of press releases – you’re certainly right to do so. Most press releases are so boring and stuffed with lame, generic corporate speak that it’s easy to wonder if the company releasing it bothered reading it. But it doesn’t have to be this way: you can make your press releases a great resource for the media members who can use them as a source and even the general public.
Entrepreneur suggested including exciting statistics about your company or industry that will act as a hook for a larger article and tie into a trending theme if possible. But that should be against the backdrop of a well-written release that sounds like a real human wrote it and wasn’t just generated by a computer. From there, utilize a distribution service such as PR Newswire to ensure your release gets picked up on search engines and syndicated news websites.
What you can do right now
You don’t have to wait until you have a hefty bank account to start getting publicity. Use these tips to get started now:
- Make your story appealing to the media members who will report on it and the audiences who will eventually consume it.
- Pick some outlets that fit into your space and tailor a unique pitch for each of them.
- Write and distribute some well-written and useful press releases.
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