5 “New School” Rules of PR for Startups

We are often asked about how the approach to online public relations differs from the old-school PR approach for traditional media. Here are some table stakes guidelines for startups looking to create online buzz around their products or services.

1. Drop your “old-school” notions of PR.
The traditional method of distributing a press release to hundreds of media outlets is outdated.

Digital and social media provide more effective outlets for distributing your brand’s message. These new outlets are perfect for startups because they allow brands to build relationships over time by delivering bits of newsworthy information in unobtrusive ways. Once an initial contact is established through email or social media, be prepared to send along additional information. A digital media kit is typically the best document for the job. It should be short and catchy in both design and copy. It should also make it easy for the reader to share your brand’s message.

2. Give your CEO a voice.
Many startups hire expensive PR firms to serve as the voice of their brand. While PR firms may be helpful in securing exposure, it is likely that the best voice for your brand is already a member of the team.

Your startup’s CEO usually has the best understanding of your key messages, especially when compared to an outside spokesperson. The CEO not only knows the business inside and out, but lives and breaths the mission and values behind it. He or she should be speaking to the media, as his or her comments will be viewed as more passionate and sincere than those of a professional spokesperson. Even if you do hire a PR firm, they’ll likely be looking to book interviews for your CEO anyway.

Note: Beware! Not all CEOs are made for media. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to tell your CEO that they could use a bit of media coaching before going on air. While your startup’s CEO may be passionate about the message, if she is unable to articulate it in a media friendly way she could become the next YouTube sensation (and not in a good way!).

3. Pitch with value first.
The first thing out of your mouth when pitching your startup should be what your business does and how it adds value.

Think of this introduction as your elevator pitch, but even more attention grabbing. When writing or speaking to a reporter (or anyone for that matter), get right to the point. Intrigue the listener by showing what the benefit will be to him. Explain how your product or service is going to improve his life in the immediate future and how these benefits improve down the road. It isn’t about you, its about the audience.

4. Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes.
Before sending your pitch to hundreds or thousands of reporters and bloggers, ask yourself why their readers care about what you are offering.

Reporters and bloggers have to produce content that will keep their readers engaged and coming back. Popular bloggers and reporters receive dozens, if not hundreds, of pitches every single day. Why are their readers more interested in your startup than all of the others battling for their attention? Once you are able to answer that question, put that answer into the very first sentence of your pitch.

5. Think long-term not short term.
To publicize your startup, build lasting relationships with your biggest fans.

Once you have made contact with the media or other professionals, be sure to stay in touch and maintain the relationship over time. Once you’ve made the initial connection, the hard part is over. Keep your contact up to date with the new projects that your startup is working on and offer your CEO as an “expert” should they ever need a quote for another story. Let them know how much you value their coverage of your business and on the next slow news day they may actually come to you in search of a story.

What are some of your “new school” PR rules for startups? Let us know it the comments below.

Image by xlibber (TypewriterUploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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