Be Seen: PR Tips for Startup Founders

Forget what Google taught you. The reality is that a press release isn’t going to help you. Here's what will.
Be Seen: PR Tips for Startup Founders

Many startup founders have PR near the top of their list heading into this year. If that’s true for you, it’s also likely that your time and budget are divided into hundreds of other buckets that are also just as important. How do you raise awareness without investing months of DIY time or paying a massive public relations agency fee?

Let’s start with dispelling some myths so we can help you get the most traction with the least investment. PR is everything you do in the public eye. It stands for Public Relations and can cover everything from how you respond to a comment on LinkedIn to whether you are opening the door to someone at a conference. That’s right—in-person things also count. It’s not just  getting your story in a newspaper. This is called publicity, and it is just one strand of PR. 

There are so many effective (and not so effective) approaches to good PR, so to make sure we are picking the right promotional implement from our artillery, let’s get right back to basics.

Starting with: what are your business objectives? 

Do you want to attract an investor?

Are you trying to employ talent?

Are you looking to attract the right brand partnership?

The answer to this is going to shape where we need to direct your PR efforts. If time is a restraint, then we don’t want to be taking our time answering journalist requests on Twitter following #journorequest when we actually need to be getting in front of the right people at live events. 

Know your values

If you start finding yourself hijacking weird calendar dates in response to your competitors or making knee-jerk marketing decisions based on a feeling, then chances are you need to do a quick value check.

Write down all of the values you stand for and whittle it down to just five. If you are getting stuck, ask a peer or former client to let you know. 

Having a solid foundation in your PR strategy is going to pay dividends later.  It is going to help you decide who to collaborate with, who to pitch to and most importantly, it is going to teach you who NOT to partner with. 

Where is the sweet spot between your target audience and your comfort zone?

There is zero point in you pitching to speak on podcasts or stages if your idea of public speaking is a nightmare. Equally, if you struggle to articulate your expertise succinctly in words, then pitching a guest article or expert comment to the media isn’t going to work for you. 

Look at where the target audience aligned with your business goals are playing and match your efforts against those places that play to your strengths. 

Jot down a maximum of five places that will get you in front of your audience, cater to your strengths and help you hit your business goals. Next, we’ll connect with people at those places who can help bring your message to your audience. 

Take connecting steps 

Forget what Google taught you. The reality is that a press release isn’t going to help you. Journalists aren’t sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about your new exciting app, website redesign, SaaS product, d2c product or crypto art collection (and your customers aren’t desperate to read about it, either).

Journalists are more likely to care about broader consumer trends, the global markets, genuine innovation and future forecasting—topics that add value and insight to their work. And if your expertise adds value or insight to those topics, in a very specific segment or area, you become that journalist’s go-to person for commentary. 

It is far better for you to pitch reactive comments to the news agenda than to issue blanket press releases. Find the journalists at your list of five places and build genuine relationships with them. Comment on their work, and share it with your audience. Help them out even if you are not the person to solve their problems. 

Work on your pitch 

We have all received those cold sales pitches on LinkedIn. The cut-and-paste message that shows they barely looked at your profile. Equally, we can all tell when someone getting in touch with us for the first time knows something about us.

A journalist, events organiser or podcast host will feel the same. Before sending a one-size-fits-no-one pitch to be featured, ensure you are the right fit. Make your pitch email centered around what the benefit is for them and their audience (and not about how great you are). 

Create a media library

It doesn’t have to be a public page, but I recommend all key spokespeople have a page on a website that includes a downloadable biography and headshot. It is particularly handy when you are on the go and someone asks for this information.

Don’t forget to include one headshot in the landscape format. It is perfect for blogs and print media. I have often been able to snag a larger section in a newspaper because of submitting the landscape image, so this tip is a goodie. 

When working effectively, PR is a great free tool to raise your profile in front of the right audience. The more time you can invest in the preparation stages before contacting others will make all the difference. 

And should you decide that you need some support, start with a peer-recommended freelancer who isn’t afraid to tell you No. They should be like part of your team and help craft comments and opinions on your behalf. Doing this preparation work listed above before you work with a consultant will ensure you have the most effective relationship.

Note from the &ideas Editorial team: Lucy has amazing & free/low-cost resources for DIY PR on her website We've used them!