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6 PR Tips for Generating Publicity for Your Startup Just about every founder thinks her or his startup belongs on the front page, but few actually know how to make this happen. Here are some tips.

By Rebekah Iliff Edited by Dan Bova


Editor's Note: YoungEntrepreneur's Ask the Expert column seeks to answer questions about everything from starting a business to growth strategies. To follow the column on Twitter -- and ask a question -- use hashtag #YEask, or leave a comment below. Your query may be the inspiration for a future column.

Q: How do I get my business and myself more publicity? I want to get on TV and into bigger publications. I want my business on the front page.
- Jason Baudendistel
Southern Illinois University

A: When people or companies ask me, "What's the best way to get my name in lights?" I typically redirect their energy and ask them to think about this statement: "If my business was to gain a massive amount of attention from my target audience, then my business would benefit from both a brand equity and growth standpoint."

Inflated egos notwithstanding, the PR engine can be both a blessing and a curse -- and if you are ill prepared, publicity can ruin the reputation of a business (or person) before the market has a chance to decide if you have a viable product or service.

Related: 5 Ways to Land Press for Your Startup From Your Dorm Room

So let's take a step back and assume that you have a viable business and a general idea of your target audience. Let's also assume that you've left your ego at the door and you have the human capital and bandwidth to sustain and grow your business if all of the sudden (like magic) you have a thousand new customers.

If the above assumptions are true, here are six principles of PR that can guide you in taking your product from lame to fame. Queue camera.

1. Make it emotional. Think about your story. Are you a travel app that makes it easier for single moms with kids to source discounted vacations because you saw a need for this after watching your sister go through it? Or are you a B2B product that makes task sharing easier among executives who wanted to have more time to spend with their kids? Is there an emotional element attached to your business, or is this just a straight up practical application?

2. Articulate your story. Here's a good exercise to go through that may help you better understand how to position your product. Fill in the blanks with 20 to 50- word answers.

  • Our team created this product because…

  • The product has the following features…

  • Which will allow our users/customers to…

  • And success of the product will be measured like this…

3. Define your target user. Who is your intended user for this product? Is it everyone (bad sign!) or is it extremely niche, i.e. ex-pats living in major urban cities. Once you understand who you are serving, you can better understand which media channels will make sense for outreach.

Related: 4 Steps to Creating Buzz on a Shoestring Budget

4. Do your research. Who are your competitors and who is talking about them? Did they get a big write-up in TechCrunch, The Illinois Business Journal, or Entrepreneur magazine? Or do they have a lot of buzz in a particular community like dog walkers? Point being, don't aim in the dark. Newsflash: 99 percent of products are not unique and they have predecessors. Use them to your advantage and figure out what tactics they used to get people talking about them.

5. Create a wish list. Pick the top 10 media outlets or blogs where you would like to be featured. Beyond that, pick 20 to 30 writers, bloggers, review sites or partners that would be able to get your product in front of at least 500,000 eyeballs. Meaning, their audience has a reach of at least 500,000. I'm not talking about unique visits to the website. I'm talking about actual distribution and engagement.

6. Pitch. Then and only then, tell journalists your story and offer them something unique to share with their audience. Make sure their audience is the correct one (see tip No. 3). It's your job to make the connection for them. Allude to trends in the marketplace, or other products they've covered that are similar. Keep in mind that you must have something to offer them -- they won't do you any favors. It has to be a win-win.

Remember, publicity is a complex beast with highly variable outcomes. No guarantees exist in PR because the media ultimately has their own agenda. You must be 100 percent sure a target on your back won't crush your business. Publicity is not the panacea for a product that isn't selling, it should only be used to enhance a sustainable business.

Have a question for YE's experts? Submit your questions in the comments section below and those with the most likes from other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. Include your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business.

Rebekah Iliff

Chief Strategy Officer for AirPR

Rebekah Iliff is the chief strategy officer for AirPR, a technology platform to increase public-relations performance that serves Fortune 500 and fast growing technology companies. Previously, she was the CEO of talkTECH Communications, where she created an industry-first methodology for emerging technology companies which positioned talkTECH as one of the fastest growing, launch-only PR firms in the U.S. Iliff holds a B.A. in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, and an M.A. in organizational management and applied community psychology from Antioch University at Los Angeles (AULA).

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