PR for Start-ups: Forget your Brand


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When most savvy business owners think about marketing and public relations, they think of their company first and foremost. Visions of ads promoting their value proposition and profile pieces in magazines highlighting their leadership team swirl in their heads. And while this isn’t wrong, it’s surely not effective if you want to grow a customer-centric business.

Talk to any PR agency and you’ll probably hear about how you need to refine your messaging and better communicate your value to buyers. But somehow this advice often gets lost in translation and interpreted to mean that a business must learn how to tout its own benefits more eloquently. Not the case. Within any company, but especially if you lead a start-up, you’d be best served to forget your brand while working on PR. Here’s why – and how.

Who Cares?

While your life revolves around your company, few others’ do. You probably think your products or services are game-changing – and for good reason. What you need to remember, though, is that prospects and customers don’t care about any of this. They care about how any of your purported value propositions impact them.

Your CEO might be speaking at an upcoming event, but writing a press release about this is missing the boat. Instead, you’d want to consider why this information would matter to someone. Maybe your CEO’s topic is all about increasing productivity in sales, and a certain segment of your customers could benefit from hearing his advice. In this case, you could write a blog post about what takeaways attendees will get from hearing this presentation, and then share it with these specific individuals via your email channels.

Instead of blasting this news (that isn’t even newsworthy), you’ve instead conveyed the value of the event to the exact group of people who might care. And this means you’re putting your customers’ and prospects’ interests ahead of your own. Do you see how much more powerful that can be?

Content that Caters to your Buyers

If you run a start-up and are working on your business’ PR efforts yourself, kudos to you! It takes grit – and considerable time – to do this, but can be incredibly rewarding. As you work to create content, do yourself a favor and again leave your grandiose perceptions of your brand in the dust. Instead, zero in on your target customer’s needs.

When you come up with topics for your blog, for instance, turn to your salespeople or those in customer service. These folks are on the front lines when it comes to interacting with your buyers, and they can be a goldmine of information. Ask them what they hear as the most common questions, objections and complaints about your products or services. Then turn around, and employ these topics as fuel for your blog. Use posts as a vehicle to address FAQs, offer resources and contribute to a more positive customer journey with your brand.

Outside of your blog, you can apply the same principles to other content. One idea is to poll your current customers and ask them about a particular behavior or pattern of theirs, as it pertains to your business. The next step is to compile the information and give some thought to the results. You can then offer a contributed article to an industry publication that reveals any trends you’ve discovered, along with suggestions for how businesses within this field can adapt their practices to better serve customers. As you can see, these examples put the customer first and your brand second.

So instead of flaunting the aspects of your business that appeal the most to you, pay attention to how each benefit can help your buyers. If you manufacture ergonomically correct office chairs, for instance, don’t lead with telling people about how you visit Milan to select the materials by hand and how you wrote your PhD dissertation on spinal alignment. You might mention these things later, but you should most prominently communicate the fact that your chairs help ease lower back pain and are affordable. This end result is usually what matters to your customers.

It probably feels counterintuitive to shine a spotlight on your buyers rather than your company, but it’s the most surefire way to get mileage out of PR – especially for start-ups. People won’t care about what you’re selling until you communicate to them that they matter to you, and that their issues are your issues too. If you shift your mindset to be truly customer-centric, you’ll find yourself leading a solid PR program, selling to highly satisfied buyers and organically growing a first-class business.

Rebecca Hasulak
Rebecca Hasulak is the author & creator of "DIY PR: Public Relations and Content Hacks for the Lean Start-up" and the owner of Quotable PR & Content. Formerly, she honed her skills as an associate editor of a magazine and as a senior leader at a public relations agency. Rebecca is at her very happiest when spending time with her beautiful baby girl and loved ones. Connect with her at or on Twitter @diy_PR.


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