There are few things more frustrating, as a business owner, than clicking open a story and seeing your competitor’s smiling face stare back out at you. You are busting a gut building your business, yet your rival is hogging all the press. But how can the media write or talk about you if they don’t know who you are or what you do?
By Martha Kearns
Investing in a well-thought out and sustained PR campaign can result in an ROI that you never thought possible – from investor interest to increased sales. But while most startups recognise that they need good PR, many feel they don’t have the finances to take the initial leap. So, to allow you to dip your toe in the water, we’ve put together our list of essential PR tips for startups that will only cost you some time.
What’s your story?
Journalists and the media are always looking for a good story. So you have to give them one. It’s not good enough to contact a journalist and say – look at my company, aren’t we great? They will rightly reply, ‘so what?’. You have to identify what makes you stand out from the crowd. Craft a story about your business that you think people would want to read – but always make sure its 100pc real.
Your pitches will have to be clear and concise: if you don’t really know what you are trying to tell a journalist, how will they? Don’t waffle. Your pitch needs to be clearly spelled out in the subject line and the first paragraph – otherwise journalists won’t have the time – or the interest – to read onto the second paragraph.
Do your research
Never send out a generic email to a general email account; it will just get lost in the rabble. Be specific. You need to know who you are targeting and why. This will take a bit of work but will be worthwhile in the long run. Identify your desired outlet (newspaper, radio station, television programme, online site) then select the journalist working there that suits your product/company/story best. Contact them directly and personally, with your pitch tailored specifically for them and the outlet they work for.
Journalists don’t bite
Well, most of them don’t anyway. But don’t hound them. Journalists get dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches from individuals, private firms and PR companies every single day. So don’t expect a gushing reply minutes after you send a email, tweet or PM. Gently prod them a few days/weeks later, depending on the story, but don’t get affronted if you never hear back at all. Once you have given them enough time to have first refusal on the story, move on.
Images, images, images. If you don’t have a good-quality image to go with your story, you are facing an uphill battle. Investment in good, quality photography can be worth its weight in media columns. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive, especially if you combine a photo shoot with getting images for your website/product shots etc. Just please don’t get a friend with a smart phone to do it.
Twitter is the place to be if you want to connect with journalists. Following as many journalists in your field will really give you a good insight into the subjects they are interested in and the types of angles they go for. It is a way for them to get to know your name and/or product before you pitch directly to them. But for the love of God, don’t hassle or troll them and don’t fawn over them. They’ll see right through it and it will have the opposite effect.
Back it up
Data is a great way of grabbing the attention of the media. Back up your story with statistics and data to illuminate what you have to say. Some businesses are wary about releasing their stats – such as turnover, funding and employee target numbers – but it is a great way of adding meat to your story. As you grow, most business journalists will focus on these factors.
Bin the jargon
We can not tell you the amount of times we have seen a great story strangled by jargon. Journalists don’t want to read your business plan. So don’t ‘reach out to them’ or tell them you’ll ‘circle back’ to outline your ‘core competencies’ in the hope they will ‘buy-in’ to your product. Just tell them your story as if you were telling it to a mate down the pub.