PR for Startups: Step Up to Stand Out

So, your startup is finally launched. How do you get the recognition you need to take your business to the next level? For the third and final episode of the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit series, TechUnited:NJ CEO Aaron Price brought in Peter Harris, CEO of The Harris Agency to discuss the best PR strategies for startups. Read on for tips on how to raise the visibility and the profile of your company.

What is the difference between Public Relations and Marketing?

Public Relations (PR) is the practice of reputation-building and brand storytelling. It should answer these questions: 

  • What do you stand for? 
  • Why should investors be interested in you? 
  • Why are you the best company to work for? 
  • Who is your audience? 

This process is an ongoing, long-term part of your business strategy.

Marketing is more focused on the bottom-line results of an organization, which includes increasing engagement and sales numbers. At the end of the day, both functions have the same goal: to increase company awareness. But it’s important to understand both to properly construct the bigger picture for your startup. 

Should I focus more on news media PR or social media PR?

The short answer is both.  “A blended approach is recommended regardless of who your audience is,” advises Harris. Even though the phrase “print media is dead” is thrown around often, the truth is that recognition from news outlets (whether online or in-print)   offers indispensable credibility. It shows that your startup has the co-sign of expert voices. “Earned media” is important and should be an integral part of your company PR strategy.

With that said, building social media PR is crucial in today’s fast-paced online ecosystem. Be sure to look at your social media sphere of influence. Both Twitter and LinkedIn are major hubs for journalists and influencers. Conduct research on where your audience and industry professionals interact, and actively develop a presence there through social engagement.

How do I get reporters to pay attention to my startup?

Don’t cast a wide net when seeking out reporters. It’s better to start small and strategically stand out. Consider researching the top ten reporters in your space, and then reach out to them with a thoughtful pitch. Also consider location in your strategy; hit publications in all of your targeted sectors. Find the two or three trade reports that matter most in each area.

The process of thoughtfully pitching reporters is never a waste, because even if your story isn’t picked up, you’re fostering relationships that can benefit you down the line. Your connection with that reporter or publication can be the edge you need to get your story out in the future.

Remember that reporters are people too, and especially today, these people are overwhelmed. The 24/7 news cycle is exhausting to everyone – imagine how exhausting it is to news producers! With this in mind, make sure that the writing in your email pitches is clear, concise, and typo-free. Reporters receive hundreds of pitches every day from companies, so make your pitch more digestible by keeping it to three to four sentences max.

Consider standing out by calling reporters in tandem with digital communication, but be mindful of their deadline times. Try late morning or early afternoon to get the best response.

Ultimately, communicating with the media is not just about pitching, but about relationship-building for the future. Communicate in a courteous way, and show that you are well-versed in reporters’ work by engaging with their social media, sharing their stories, and starting conversations about their previous writing.

What is “Newsjacking” and how can it help my business?

“Newsjacking” is the process of inserting your brand into the mainstream media narrative to gain attention. If you think that your startup can add a valuable voice to the current cultural conversation, there is a good chance you can get wide-reaching coverage. To do this, follow the below steps:

  1. Monitor which reporters are breaking the biggest trending stories
  2. Have those reporters’ contact information on hand
  3. The 24/7 news cycle is fast-paced. Make sure you have statements and key points prepared at all times

This process is a lot easier if you have already built relationships with the media and influencers. With this in mind, creating relationships should be an ongoing part of your company strategy. Prove that you belong in the current narrative and force your way into it.

Are press releases worth the time and money?

Yes, if there’s news included in the press release. Press Releases are good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), especially if the announcement includes other major brand name collaborations, which will get you more traffic. For optimal success, act and behave like a publicly traded company. 

Initiatives and news to create press releases for:

  1. New products and services
  2. Adding new talent to your team
  3. Customer base growth reports
  4. Mid-year growth reports

Make the most of press releases by announcing eye-catching, fresh information that will entice readers to want to learn more.

Last but not least, how do I authentically build my startup’s brand?

Harris suggests asking yourself the following questions to better understand your brand:

  1. What is the problem that you’re solving?
  2. How are you solving that problem?
  3. How are you different (and better) at solving your problem?

At every opportunity possible, show who you are as an organization. Flexing the strength of your team and the vision of your startup will express your brand story seamlessly to audiences, investors, and the media. “New Jersey has amazing stories to tell,” says Harris, “I have a lot of pride in the community and businesses here.”

Thank you to Edison Partners and The Harris Agency for collaborating on the Entrepreneur Toolkit series! Watch the full episode here

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