6 Ways to Bootstrap the PR Your Startup Needs But Can't Afford
Entrepreneurs at bootstrapped companies have to do more with less. In an attempt to DIY it to the next phase, companies in the pre-funding stage hustle 24/7 to get noticed and land meetings with investors. But a great idea, a viable product, a wide-open market and the right inflection points won’t always get you through the door if nobody knows you exist.
Without high visibility and a solid public relations strategy, many companies never gain enough momentum to secure those key investments. Good PR can be the difference between getting funded or being completely ignored.
If you’re the founder of a pre-seed startup, you need to win over customers and investors. Investors won’t even look at your company until you can verify consumer interest and industry buzz. PR helps you achieve both.
Late-stage companies such as Uber, Squarespace and Trello have in-house PR departments and PR firms working their vast networks and skill sets to promote their brands. PR teams help businesses earn positive visibility by managing their public images, generating leads and publicizing social responsibility initiatives.
Entrepreneurs with thin wallets unable to afford PR departments or outside agencies can still pull off effective DIY strategies on a bootstrapping budget. By implementing PR tactics tailored to early-stage startups, you can build the connections and user base you need to grow. Here’s how:
1. Connect with journalists.
Although they may not be writing about you today, you’ll want journalists to cover your product launch or company news in the future. Invite them to lunch or drinks, and familiarize yourself with their work. Watch for trends, and spend time creatively thinking about ways they can cover your startup. As your launch date nears, keep them updated through embargoed news releases and exclusive information to make writing about your company a natural conclusion.
You want to form relationships with tech and industry reporters, but don’t forget about consumer writers. They’re the ones who will connect you with the right audience.
2. Network at conferences and meetups.
This is a great way to form long-standing relationships with other founders and influencers in your industry. As a founder, you represent the company, so people need to know who you are and have a face to put with your product. You can draw on these connections for references, promotional help and important introductions down the road.
3. Attract VCs through targeted media placements.
Once you’re ready to launch, push for coverage in respected publications such as VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Engadget and Crain’s New York Business. VCs look to these resources for hot investment prospects, and you want to get on their radars with favorable industry press.
4. Earn consumer-facing press.
Investors are interested in products that will sell. Consumer websites and magazines are great places to drum up audience interest and impress investors with hard stats that credit your startup’s impressive trajectory.
Research the outlets your audience favors, and make connections with journalists there. If you’re a food startup, for example, you’ll want to target publications such as Bon Appétit magazine. If you sell baby products, shoot for Pregnancy Magazine.
5. Amplify your content.
Leverage your network and social media communities to share features, profiles and media mentions about your company. Add to important conversations, and weigh in on industry trends with your own high-quality content. You need earned media to establish visibility and get in front of the right people, but you can also create content to educate your audience on your own terms.
6. Live up to the hype.
Good PR strategies put you on the map but your in-person representation needs to align with what investors and potential clients have read about you. A sophisticated and professional appearance, a strong handshake and a confident presentation speak volumes. Investors use these social cues to evaluate whether you’ll live up to their expectations.
No magic bullet will get you in the door, but pre-seed companies can up their chances considerably by getting the right people to start talking about their concept and how it affects the lives of potential customers.
Elliot Tomaeno is the founder of Astrsk, a New York PR firm that works with both emerging and established technology companies. Tomaeno has worked with companies such as Squarespace, Frank & Oak, Trello, QuizUp, ClassPass, PHHHOTO, Zola and many more. Since launching in 2012, Astrsk has helped launch more than 150 startups and tech products and has been part of seven exits.