Most startups face a major challenge when it comes to public relations. They know buzz needs to be created through PR channels, but they don’t always have the connections or manpower to stir up good press.
The right PR can help early-stage startups build user bases as well as attract interest from venture capitalists. Don’t let a non-existent marketing budget or the lack of a dedicated marketing team discourage you. Use these tips to help your startup generate press necessary for success.
1. Identify your target media outlets and journalists.
Putting together a well thought-out pitch takes time, which is something that startups don’t have enough of. Instead of pitching everyone and anyone, identify a dozen media outlets that are ultimately your top choices. Nobody ever made it by playing for second place, so go after the press you really want. Take some time to identify the journalists that write for these outlets -- read their work and follow them on social media.
This will help you to identify the person that is most likely to be interested in your pitch. You want to identify a particular staffer or journalist and create your pitch specifically tailored for them, even if you aren’t sending it directly to them. If you are submitting your pitch to a general tips or submission email mention that you would like it passed to a particular individual. If it is well put together it will get into their hands.
2. Use content assets as PR bait.
There are literally thousands of startups all drooling over media coverage, and unfortunately not every startup is going to get the coverage they want. To increase your odds of standing out, it is a great idea to have a clever and well thought-out piece of content to present as part of your pitch. A great example is an infographic. You can tell your story visually and get much more attention than you would if you just wrote it out.
Have an interesting group of founders? Did you raise funding through a clever crowdfunding campaign? Tell your story through an infographic and include it with your pitch. This grabs the journalists’ attention, and if they publish it you will introduce your startup to a much larger audience simply because visual content is more engaging.
The goal is to be creative and to stand out from the other hundreds of pitches. Want to really stand out? Create a clever video and watch media outlets knock your door down wanting to talk to you.
3. Don’t send a copy/paste generic pitch.
Journalists and editors can spot a copy/paste job a mile away. If they even suspect your pitch is a copy/paste blast sent to every email address you could get your hands on they will delete it immediately. They get pitched around the clock every single day with generic requests -- make your pitch completely personalized and tailored specifically around them and the publication they work for.
If they sense your request is genuine you are more likely to get a response. Also, don’t simply change the journalist name and media outlet. If you mistakenly send a request to someone at Venture Beat but the pitch says how much you love reading Tech Crunch you risk blacklisting your startup. Don’t be lazy -- if you want the results, you need to be willing to put in the effort.
4. Craft your pitch so it’s newsworthy.
You need to make sure that your pitch angle is newsworthy -- not only do you have to highlight a unique selling point, but you also have to craft your pitch so it relates to the media outlet that you are targeting.
For instance, if your startup develops a web-based software-as-a-service product and you were targeting a media outlet that tends to cover social-media news, you could approach it by explaining how you used social-media engagement to secure your first 1,000 paid subscribers.
You can find a newsworthy angle for virtually any outlet if you just get a little creative.
5. Use Twitter for soft-introductions.
Virtually every journalist is on Twitter and many use it as their main communication source. Following them gives you the opportunity to comment on their work and put your name in front of them. Don’t start harassing them, but there is nothing wrong with complimenting them on recent stories. Be genuine though, they can see right through the BS. Twitter is great for soft introductions -- and if they connect your pitch to your previous Twitter communications, it can be beneficial.
Twitter is also a great platform to use for identifying windows of opportunity. Imagine if your startup is involved in cyber security and you noticed every major media journalist was publishing a story related to the recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment? Cyber-security startups should be pounding the pavement hard right now looking for every opportunity they can find.
6. Include statistics and hard data.
Any time you can include data and statistics in your pitch, do it. Take a look at these statements:
- “We just launched our brand new mobile phone cyber-security app to protect the images on your smartphone.”
- “Our new mobile phone cyber-security app received 2,345,335 downloads in just four days.”
- “We are finally ready to bring our product to market after a successful crowdfunding effort.”
- “We are bringing our product to market after raising $2.4 million -- a very successful crowdfunding effort, which was 980 percent of our initial goal.”
I don't think I need to touch on this any more. The ones that contain statistics and hard data really make the statement pop and command attention.
7. Don’t make your pitch sound like a press release. Avoid boring fluff and get to the point.
When was the last time you read a press release that blew your socks off? I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that your answer is “never.” Most press releases are boring fluff composed of a few company statistics mixed in with some equally boring quotes. If you craft your pitch to sound like a press release, don’t expect a response. Short, packed with details and right to the point wins every time.
My company receives inquiries from startups all the time looking for advice. Often, they flat out say they have zero marketing budget, but if their request is to the point and grabs our attention -- because of their unique selling propisition -- we will typically fire off some advice and suggestions to help them out.
The key here is short and to the point combined with an attention-grabbing element. If they sent a boring press release-type message they wouldn't get the same response. The same approach needs to be taken when pitching journalists. If they understand your startup and you grab their attention in a few sentences it greatly increases the odds of them replying back to you.
What are some other ways startups can generate PR? Let us know in the comments section below.