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Positive Publicity Boosts Your Startup's Chance for Success

Investors, customers, even employees become enthusiastic when your company garners visibility in the media. And it doesn't take an expensive PR firm to get it, either.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Positive publicity is a remarkable tool, that, when used properly, can help a business or individual really make a name for themselves. You might be familiar with its formal term, “public relations.”


Over the last few years, I’ve substituted positive publicity for public relations. Honestly, I grew tired of the latter phrase. It’s such a stale term. In my experience working with entrepreneurs and startups, public relations elicits confusion and apprehension, and it carries a negative connotation.

When I meet people, I used to tell them I was in public relations. They immediately looked at me as if I was an apprentice to Francis Underwood from House of Cards.

Positive publicity is what PR does.

That’s why I now substitute positive publicity. At the end of the day, that’s all public relations is. It’s acquiring positive attention through various means, leading more people to becoming familiar with who you are and what you do. It’s building credibility through positive visibility -- which is priceless in business.

Public relations is what the agencies call it. It’s what the self-described “gurus,” who have all the answers and know your company better than you, call it too. But I like to use layman's terms. None of that inside-baseball marketing jargon.

If you’re a small business, startup or solopreneur, positive publicity is something you can do on your own, so you can get the returns you’re looking for without wasting money. Best thing is, you don’t need a marketing degree to be successful at it.

Related: 4 Easy Ways to Get Publicity for Your Business

Here are my top reasons why positive publicity is the most underrated and underutilized tool in business.

Lures investors.

I’ve seen it so many times. A company gets covered one time in a media outlet and immediately investors begin to inquire and take notice. Part of how you get their attention is by finding the right bait. Think of fishing. Not all fish are going to bite or be attracted to the same bait. One fish might like sardines, another squid. Same principle rings true for investors. Two particular stories stand out.

Recently, I consulted with a software company. We promoted the use of the company’s app on a large project, notable to the public, and the story got picked up in the local paper. Unbeknownst to me, the founder of the company was speaking with investors, attempting to acquire a seed round of funding. When one such investor saw the story, he was sold.

In the other instance, a CEO won a very substantial award. The credibility and popularity of the award gave an investor confidence that the company was being run effectively. After speaking on the phone with this investor, he told me that without the award, he might not have chosen to invest. 

Related: 5 Reasons Why PR Is Important For Your Startup

Investors feel confident in companies that have been covered by news outlets because that coverage provides legitimacy. Different stories and media outlets can make the difference. They can attract investors and seal the deal in negotiations for a seed round, or whatever funding is being sought.

Builds company culture.

Positive exposure will skyrocket company culture and bolster its retention. People are excited to work for companies that attract positive attention, that are doing great things in the news, and that people recognize in their local communities. Say your company gets named one of the best places to work in your city. That recognition is something people talk about in the daily “Where do you work?” conversation.

It can keep talent, build culture, and create a buy-in from the community. There’s recognition that this company has staying power and is something that the community is proud of. People like to be associated with winners -- even your parents. Parents love to brag when their son or daughter works for a company that’s widely recognized. With pride comes loyalty, and that can help build culture. Everyone knows Google, but not everyone knows “Bob’s Auto.” Name recognition is powerful, and it can capture people’s attention.

Increases sales and attracts new customers.

Positive visibility makes potential customers more comfortable doing business with you. It builds credibility and facilitates easier transactions. Building your name and brand awareness can lead to more people consuming your product or service.

In the same way investors are encouraged by coverage, customers follow suit. They can feel confident in your product and the company when there’s a history of good performance documented by media over the years. When a credible third party says good things about you or your company, it generates a comfortability money can’t buy.

Related: Marketing Without PR Is Like A Dream Without A Goal

Knowledge is power.

I didn’t invent this adage, but it sure rings true. Even though you could often pay someone for the time you put into PR, positive publicity is worth the time spent. As a startup or small business stuck in neutral, you don’t need to hire someone; you can do it yourself. In doing so, you will gain a better understanding of what draws people to your business, product or service.

This understanding of your company and the positivity that drives it will streamline your message. With that clarity comes an understanding of how you can better market your company. Then, when your business starts to scale and your time is needed elsewhere, you can afford to hire an agency -- and hold them accountable because you actually understand how the publicity game works. This invaluable understanding isn’t something you have to pay a big agency or someone who costs a lot of money to do.

The double whammy.

When you successfully pitch a story to a media outlet, and you don’t have to pay an agency to do it, it’s free. Then, when that story runs, it’s like free advertising. I can’t see a better return on investment than that right there -- that grassroots sort of attention. Not only have you garnered the attention of your potential customers and investors, but you have put yourself out there to increase sales. Now, with that coverage, you can get the social media whirlwind to repeat and amplify your story by spreading it to the masses free of charge.

You want results; you want to see marketing and positive publicity put more dollars in your pocket. Don’t get hoodwinked by the stories and media campaigns out there that suggest you could get rich off your Facebook campaign, “Put in $500 and make $5 million.” As much as I wish that were true, it’s not reality. And that $500 will be gone in a blink of an eye with little to show for it.

At the end of the day, knowledge is power. By understanding positive publicity, you can tailor your message into a superpower that works in your favor. This underrated, underutilized tool gives you all the value of a public relations team with none of the cost. What better tool for your toolbox?

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