Getting exposure for a project you’ve sacrificed sleep, money and social time for may seem like the highest priority right before launch. The problem is most startup budgets won’t bank a clever publicity campaign or a high-end PR firm.
Luckily there are low-cost ways to generate interest in your business before sales start percolating.
1. Communicate your higher purpose. In today’s startup culture, the reality is you’re probably not the first to market with a product or service that solves the problem you’re fixing in your space. Trying to hook the media’s attention about the merits of your business or service alone is unlikely to land you much traction.
Instead, get clear on what your company stands for. What is your philosophy or unique approach to tackling the problem in your market? Offer the press a fresh perspective. Be consistent and vocal about relevant issues in your space that are open for debate. Draw a line between your past experiences and why you’re in a special position to comment on these problems. This can open you up to many thought leadership opportunities in the press that can benefit your brand.
2. Find like minds with influence. Twitter, LinkedIn, industry publications and blogs -- there is no shortage of resources to research and communicate with influencers in your space. Before reaching out, take the time to understand the opinions and audiences of the influencers you wish to connect with and brainstorm creative ways to introduce both yourself and your product or service to them.
A couple years ago, an online eyewear brand I was working with studied the style of all the fashion editors, reporters and bloggers who wore glasses in their target region. Once aware of each influencer’s style, the company’s head designer recorded a simple but personalized video message for each personality suggesting a style of eyeglasses that would look good on them and offering a virtual consultation. Approximately 70 percent of the influencers took advantage of the offer and 65 percent wrote, blogged or shared the experience with their social networks in a positive light. The cost was minimal, but the reach was substantial and effective.
3. Don’t under estimate direct-to-public opportunities. It’s rare for a business to consult with a public-relations practitioner in the early stages of conception. It’s in this stage, however, when your brand is being architected that often dictates how attracted the public will be to your company.
Companies that are brand aware are in a much better position to capitalize on direct-to-public opportunities such as social media, networking and speaking events.
Designing a hip culture, with interesting spokespeople, sticky language and relatable values, can better position your startup to gain evangelists quickly and organically.
4. Develop valuable content. Like most industries, media outlets are in need of engaging content that is relevant to the demographic they are trying to reach. The trouble is most companies create infographics, blogs or articles with the sole purpose of selling their own product or service. While this may work for select, special-interest press, it won’t likely get you published by mainstream outlets.
The press exists to inform the public of facts and to offer well-balanced viewpoints. By creating content that gives a well-rounded look into an issue, you can establish a shared voice in the press amongst other industry leaders, including larger competitors in your space.
5. Apply for recognition. Just because you’re new to market, doesn’t mean it’s too early for recognition. In any industry there are numerous awards and accolades that can be applied for. Often there is no fee or a nominal charge for applying.
Don’t limit yourself to company awards. Look for opportunities to celebrate your people through honors such as “30 Under 30” or “Women to Watch.” Likewise, there are many prestigious accolades that look for “Best New Business Concept” or “Startups to Watch.”
Media outlets also publish annual lists that can be found in previous issues or in online editorial calendars. Research and apply for them. If selected, these honors can be a valuable way to nab attention from investors, analysts and the public.