Impressing the press: 5 PR tips for startups

Impressing the press: 5 PR tips for startups

As an early stage start-up with little cash/dough/moolah, public relations (PR) can be your best friend. But who do you reach out to, and how? What’s in a press release?

Here are five tips to help you get started:

1. Define your objectives

What do want to accomplish? Is consumer acquisition your main need? Is PR needed for a proof-of-concept or to validate your business model through beta testing? Is it to drive awareness for a specific audience?

Answering these questions will help guide who you reach out to, what you say and how you measure your ROI. Just “blasting” everyone who will listen isn’t a wise option.

2. Define your target market(s) and timing

Where will you have the most impact? Where is your audience? Are there “pockets” of your audience who are highly engaged?

Good timing is essential. A PR release in the middle of July may not be the best way to reach affluent cottage-goers, they won’t receive your message. Similarly, targeting students with a PR release in early December (when they are studying for exams) isn’t going to get much traction.

3. Define your press audience

Create a 100-person list of influential bloggers and reporters who have potential to spread the word about your company, then pare it down. Don’t just go to the usual suspects (e.g., TechCrunch). You may find a niche group of influencers, for instance, who reach your audience with far less shouting. Look at what they write about – do they cover your space? Refine this list to focus on the first 50 bloggers and reporters, get the message out, then focus on the next 50.

4. Think big, but also small:

Consider the Globe, Toronto Star, BNN and other unique, high-reach media sources? Do they fit with your objectives? Also, think regionally. Many regional news sources are looking for stories and may be able to drive high awareness in aggregate.

Reporters and bloggers receive 100s of pitches and releases per day, so make sure your release has a catchy subject line. For example: reporters like stats in headlines.

5. Get endorsed

An endorsement lends credibility by being less biased and ‘salesy’. Know anyone important in your space? An A-Lister? Include their quote in your release. Another good approach is to speak with the ‘voice of the consumer’ by including a customer testimonial. You can use these endorsements in your PR communications and in follow-up marketing.

Release Writing 101

Start with two sentences (minimum) and 3-5 bullets that explain how your company solves a problem. Answer the five Ws: who, what, why, where and when. Always include your company URL. Ask yourself, “what 3-5 things would the world want to know about my product, what’s in it for them?”

Close with information about the management team, respective boiler plate, contact information and links to social media.

Now compare your work with the PR releases of companies you admire, or competitors. Do you measure up?

Be ready for some follow-up

Once you’re actively pitching outlets and meeting with reporters and bloggers, assign a PR person and make sure they’re prepared to answer questions:

  • What is your IP?
  • How long before your competitors catch up?
  • Why is this a huge opportunity? Make sure you focus on current issues and trends.
  • Contact information for your endorsers

For more useful information, see: