When you're just starting up, PR can seem like the easiest part of a founder's job. All you have to do is talk to journalists about your awesome company. Sounds easy enough.
The problem is, talking to the media is a lot easier than getting their attention in the first place. To improve your chances, here are five pitfalls to avoid:
1. Dont send blast emails.
Believe me, I understand the appeal of blast emails -- sending thousands of emails at the same time makes your PR task a piece of cake.
While it's an easy out for you, it can be irritating to editors and writers. It is obvious when you send the same email to all your contacts and just change the name. There is no sense of personal connection and many times you're sending the pitch to the wrong people.
Rather than just shooting in the dark, spend the time researching. If you can find 10 solid contacts, you'll probably get better results than blasting.
2. The world doesnt revolve around you.
Your company is the center of your world, but it is not the center of the world. It is important to keep that in mind when you start hearing 'no' from the media, as not everyone will want to do a feature on your stellar new product.
While the rejection might feel like a personal blow, it isnt. An editor might not be interested for factors outside of their control, such as limited spacing in the publication.
Even if a publication cant cover you this time, don't give attitude. Instead, be gracious because you never know when another opportunity will arise.
3. Ditch the boring cookie-cutter template.
You wont get very far in PR, if you just pitch your product or services over and over again. Instead, look for other ways to get your story out there.
When I work with my clients, I always look for story ideas beyond the obvious. I use their leadership style, hobbies and company culture to position my clients as experts. You can turn these narratives into contributed content. A lot of online outlets have contributor guidelines, so check them out and pitch away.
4. If your product or service isn't ready for coverage, don't pitch.
You have one opportunity to make an impact on the editor, so make sure you are putting your best foot forward. If your product isnt finished or still has obvious kinks, you dont want to be written off without a fair chance.
Also, if you are selling a consumer product, make sure it is available for purchase. The last thing you want to do is not have a product ready, as it makes you look bad and could result in a burnt bridge with the publication.
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As an entrepreneur, I know that you are eager to get your company out there, so you can start making money. However, if you are patient and wait for the right moment, it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
5. Don't harass the media.
Some editors might disagree with me, but as a publicist, I think if you haven't heard back about one of your pitches, it is okay to send a gentle follow up email. The best approach is to politely check in to see if your contact has any questions or needs additional information.
That being said, there is a fine line between following up and stalking. Err on the side of caution and dont follow up more than once or twice. If you havent heard back, it is safe to assume that there is no interest.
PR can be a very important tool in giving your company the momentum it needs to move forward. A top-tier placement is invaluable, as it has the potential to put your product or service in front of thousands of new costumers. However, dont make mistakes that could ruin your relationships with editors.
Before doing PR, think about the longevity of your company. You have a long road ahead, so make sure you don't rub people the wrong way in the beginning.
What other PR mistakes do new startups make? Let us know in the comments below.