Startup PR On the Right Foot


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There’s an awful lot of text out there on how to help steer huge corporate boats into social PR waters. It’s all good stuff, but while some behemoths have staying power, it’s worth remembering this week that 7 years ago, neither Facebook nor Twitter existed. That is, much of the future of business may be defined by innovative companies that aren’t yet on anyone’s radar.

And therein lies the future of a lot of fun PR, too. While there’s money to be made in helping and promoting established companies for whom tweeting isn’t second nature, there is often a much greater chance for creativity and long-term impact with smaller companies who are just beginning to define their public personas. Startups typically may not need a how-to on Facebook, but a deep awareness of social media is not the same thing as a PR strategy. And it’s the latter that will help build the credibility that turns into staying power.

Key Public Relations Advice for Startups and Grow-ups*
(*If there’s a better term for companies transitioning from early development to profitability, I haven’t seen it.)

  1. Choose your PR experts wisely. (No, that’s not a plug for Crawford PR.) What’s most important is finding a resource who A) knows your industry, and B) cares about your business. That means that the answer is usually an experienced boutique, with relevant industry contacts and an incentive to help you grow. With our focus in tech and telecom, we’d be a terrible choice for a startup in the fashion industry — so when you’re shopping, always ask what candidates have done for companies like yours.
  2. Know your story, but listen to feedback. If Mark Zuckerberg’s initial Facebook sales pitch had included a paragraph on the Winklevi, smart PR people would have taken him aside for a quick chat. Story-crafting isn’t about making something up or hiding the facts; it is about knowing why your product or service matters, and always building from that salient point.
  3. Analysts matter. Often before journalists do. Good PR folks will set you up with appropriate analyst briefings so curious reporters will have informed sources to go to for a bull$#!* check on your vision for your company and the market. Something inexperienced PR folks often forget.
  4. Customers matter too. If you’re brand new, this may have to wait, but if you’re entering a new market, or even if you have just a handful of early adopters, have a short list of people who would be willing to talk to the press about why your work is great.
  5. Media training will help you, and it isn’t just about the press. You and your team (PR and otherwise) will probably spend a lot of time using media to communicate, not just with reporters, but with bloggers, critics, competitors, and customers. The media training that used to prep you for a tough interview can now help you across the board in responding appropriately to anyone — and, face it, anyone you talk to is, to some extent, an influencer in your field. Being able to be friendly, articulate, and informative in any situation could very well keep you in business.
  6. Have realistic expectations. Buzz isn’t magic; it’s most often the result of hard and intelligent work. The stunning news that you exist is unlikely to score you coverage in the Wall Street Journal, but that doesn’t mean your PR strategy isn’t going to pay off. Patience, a good plan, and ongoing course corrections from trusted advisors are your best bets for climbing into public view.

A final thought: think substance over hype. You can score a front page article in the New York Times, but if your product is junk, you’ll be dead in the water anyway. But if you have a great solution for a pressing problem, and a PR campaign designed to showcase your quality to folks who will recognize it, you have a fighting chance at some staying power yourself.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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