Every entrepreneur needs to focus on PR — as founder you are often at the centre of the PR story.
You have to make sure that as many people out there know about your product/service/company as possible and make this happen as cheaply as possible. PR is the answer. It’s cheap and its power immense. But the question is how do we do it? More to the point, what exactly are we “PRing”?
Image: Richard Branson, courtesy of Gulltagen on Flickr.
Many technology start-ups rush to appoint a PR bod or an agency to spread the word or to build the profile of the founder. I have heard many an expert tell me that for a start up to be successful the PR has to be great, even better than early revenues or a killer product. Get your company mentioned in Mashable, TechCrunch and VentureBeat and it’s job done.
But how? That’s the tricky bit. You love your company, in fact you live for it, that is why you are an entrepreneur. Chances are everyone you know will have heard the elevator pitch, even if you are nowhere near a lift. But to get PR your story needs to be different and relevant to your audience. What if you are whizz in developing a product, devising the strategy but don’t see yourself as a celebrity entrepreneur — then what?
Think carefully. Before you appoint someone, think about payment for results and how you will use the coverage they generate. Exactly who do you want to speak to, and what publications/titles/sites do you want to appear in/on. It’s all about the targets.
One final point, you might not think of your story as interesting but the fact that you have the guts to be an entrepreneur is, without bragging, an inspiration to others so always talk to journalists about what you are up to. You never know where it will lead.
Marc Duke is the founder of Marc Duke Consulting.
If you run your own business you need to juggle many balls — the financials, stock, display (online and offline), networking, social media management, staff… the list goes on.
But one thing that all entrepreneurs must try to keep on top of is brand awareness — so that new customers can discover you easily and so that your existing customers feel good about seeing your company getting mentioned in the press. This kind of visibility will encourage customers to pick up the phone and order your product or services again.
Press coverage is free editorial — not paid-for advertising. If you haven’t tried to get press coverage to date, here are 12 essential steps that will help you get your company some valuable media coverage in 2014.
You will need to roll your sleeves and go for it, because if you don’t employ a PR agent (either in-house or on a contractual basis), then no one is going to do it for you. The fact that you are passionate about your product or services is a great start.
So let’s dive straight in and get some press for 2014.
1. Have a thick skin and be persistent: you could get plenty of push backs, but keep on trying, don’t be put off by rejections from journalists, the next journalist you call may love your product.
2. Be creative: try and think outside of the box to come up with interesting angles for your media approaches.
3. Have confidence: pick up the phone. If you believe in your product and are passionate about it, that’s half the battle.
4. Good images, both high and low resolution, are essential.
5. Strong copy: make your words punchy and to the point in order to catch attention.
6. Prepare your website: add a new page with links to your images and the news you are promoting.
7. Buy the target magazines or newspapers or read them online to find out more about their approach and to get the key contacts details.
8. Follow journalists on Twitter: You will see up to date information on what they are covering. You can also check out these two hashtags: #journorequest #PRrequest.
9. Identify your story: Is it a product launch? Profile piece? Case study?
10. Come up with a grabbing headline and use this in your email subject box and as the title for the press release.
11. Use statistics where possible, this gives credibility to your story. Provide a quote and if possible get one from a satisfied customer as well.
12. Always say thank you to the journalists when they publish your story.
Good luck and go for it!
Amanda Ruiz is the founder of www.amandaruiz.co.uk, a marketing and PR agency.
It might seem like the right thing to do, but blowing one’s own trumpet can often lead to disenfranchised customers and uninterested prospects. After all, it’s not about you is it?
But therein lies the rub — we are taught in business that headline-grabbing figures of growth, size, and market domination are all good things. But too easily in this environment, companies can get caught up in the “me” and forget about the “you”.
Do your customers really want to be repeatedly told of your success — to be bludgeoned by unrelenting news of your size in the market and how many users or systems you have sold? Will they flock to your banner if you give them your latest profitability and revenue figures and tell them how really well you are doing enjoying the benefits of their custom?
Or do they really want to hear about how you are going to help them get to the next level; help them to grow and flourish in their particular market? And all the time you are monologuing, you could be missing out on having a dialogue over, say, social media.
This is where talking to your market about their market can set you apart from your competition and from those people who are determined to win the contest about who has the most users or systems sold, or for that matter, bells and whistles on their product or service.
Your customers want to hear that you understand their market — that you understand their problems. They will sit up and listen if you can identify with the issues and drivers in their space, but they’ll be positively ecstatic if you can demonstrate that you are proactively pursuing a programme of activity in your product or service that actively addresses the needs that you have shown you understand.
Talking to your market about their market — or thought leadership — is where you separate yourself from the gaggle of other suppliers in your space. Being prepared to stand up and be counted in recognising your customers’ issues and their market drivers and highlighting that you can do something to help, will elevate you to market leader status not based on size, but based on reputation.
Yes, there is a place for talking about your successes — of proof points with customer stories and case studies — but this should be the undertone, not the main thrust of your messaging machine.
A well-prepared and executed campaign of thought leadership will attract the attention of the commentators in your industry; the journalists and analysts whose job it is to talk to the market about the market. Give these valuable contacts the material they need, making it easy for them by giving it to them in a timely and consumable manner, and you’ll steal the lion’s share of their coverage, getting even more people pointing at you as the perceived market leader. Not because you are biggest — but because you demonstrate you truly understand the market.
Actually, it’s you, not me…
Ashley Carr is the managing director at Neo PR.
Attracting quality press attention for your start up business can be an uphill struggle. Here are our top tips for gaining media coverage.
Make it personal
Each and every approach must be personalised. Let’s face it — nobody likes to be nameless. Avoid sending bulk emails with hundreds of recipients under the BCC tag. Most servers are auto-configured to junk incoming emails when the BCC is active with multiple emails.
Spend the extra time researching every recipient. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it will deliver results. Your conversion in terms of responses will definitely increase.
Target specific media
If you’re not clear about your target audience, then how can you execute an effective public relations campaign?
First of all, focus on the niche publications — these are your heavy hitters. Think of them as little gold mines, waiting to be found and crying out for your news. Who views them? A high majority are people solely interested in that specific topic. They are also used as research hubs for journalists from national newspapers.
By contrast, the national media titles tend to cover a broad range of topics and finding the most relevant point of contact is often laborious. Use the website search function to find relevant articles similar to your news and check the author profile.
Another great media opportunity is niche blogs. Land of the free speech, make sure they are floating high on your research list.
Make a list of all the journalists you want to target and consider making a smaller list of the key journalists that you would like to build relationships with. Keep them in the loop, invite them to your events, schmooze them! Focus your main efforts on this select group of journalists every time you have a story to convey.
The way that journalists get their hands on news has changed dramatically over the past decade. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms are real-time news hubs. Stories can go viral before they are even picked up by media sources.
The days of Ivy Lee, who created the first modern press release, have all but gone. Fax machines and snail mail are still a viable delivery method but they just aren’t used that often.
So why not use this to your advantage and go old school? Fax your press release and avoid the cluttered mailbox of a journalist. Traditional mail is another good option — you can use fancy paper, a nice envelope or even send a gift.
When you're pitching to the media, make sure you have all the assets a journalist might need, ready to send off at a moments notice. But don’t send these first time — send them to those that request them.
• A photo to go with your story;
• A screenshot of your product/website in multiple formats and sizes;
• Your company logo in multiple formats and sizes;
• What makes you different that your competitors;
• Additional quotes from relevant persons;
• A document with facts/figures about your business.
Matthew Lobas is account manager at Pressat.
Securing media coverage is often at the very heart of a PR campaign. There is no doubt that it is a great way to drive awareness among new customers.
But the effort shouldn’t end with the successful publication of coverage.
Having secured it, the smart business will share it, particularly among existing customers.
Why sharing media coverage makes good business sense
Firstly, it reinforces the business’s credibility. Unlike an advert, a piece of editorial coverage has the endorsement of an independent journalist. It is trusted. Sharing it with customers can strengthen their perceptions of the business.
Secondly, it demonstrates that the business is newsworthy and professional. It inspires confidence.
It is also a great way of staying in touch with people. Updating customers with new snippets helps keep the business front of mind.
And it’s not just in sales that media coverage can play an important role.
Virtually any VIP that a business wants to impress, is likely to be influenced by positive media coverage. It could be an industry association, or a partner organisation, or new staff that the business is trying to recruit. The list goes on.
How media coverage can be shared
For sales guys, media coverage can be worth its weight in gold. Showing it to existing or warm customers is powerful stuff. It makes their pitch much, much more believable.
Likewise, putting it on the website is a must. Not only will it impress visitors, it will help keep the website’s content fresh, which search engines like.
Other areas to consider displaying it are: sales brochures, exhibition stands and office/reception areas.
Giving a little thought as to how media coverage can be fully utilised, can reap big rewards. After all, if a business has worked hard to secure media coverage, it would be foolish not to make the most of it.
Peter O’Shea is the founder of POS Communications; for a free PR consultation, visit www.poscommunications.co.uk .
More guidance on PR:
Ask anyone in the business of selling a product and they’ll evangelise about the benefits of having their wares featured in a magazine. Not only does a feature in a magazine — be it in the “What’s new” section, part of an article or a specific feature to drive traffic to your site — it’ll give your business much-welcomed kudos to be endorsed by a magazine title your customers look up to. It’s also a sneaky ego-boost.
But gaining PR in printed titles isn’t easy. Nor is it as cheap as it first seems. You either need to be on very good terms with the magazine editors, which takes time to foster, or you need to have an incredibly hard-working and focused PR company working on your behalf, which, let’s face it, ain’t cheap.
What many e-tailers seem to be overlooking is that the rise in the uber-bloggers provides just as precious PR as traditional printed literature channels. These blogs can provide just as much influence as the glossies and better still, these blogs often link direct to your website! I’m not just talking about you using your own blog to build relationships and generate awareness, I’m talking about you getting your products featured on top blogging sites just as you would an aspirational magazine.
So how do you get your products featured on an uber-blog?
Start by doing your homework. Read the bloggers in your niche and suss out which ones resonate with your brand and your clients. Draw up a hit list of five or so that you’d like to be featured on and start to build relationships with the writers. Network with them on social media sites such as Twitter and comment on their blogs. Ideally you want to maintain a buzz of regular exposure, so build long-term relationships if you can, rather than one-hit wonders.
Bloggers love good content! Great photos, news their clients will love, scoops, sneak peeks and so on are great for the bloggers. It adds richness to their site as well as making their lives easier. I love the ethics of bloggers such as Design*Sponge who only feature on merit rather than due to backhanders! It definitely makes the reading experience more authentic.
I’ve seen too many blogs recently that have clearly just cut and pasted badly written press releases on blogs. It doesn’t work for the blogger or the product and it looks transparent. Blogging is different to the printed media. Just as you wouldn’t want a journalist to print your press release in full (including contact information for your PR), so you don’t want bloggers to publish that info either. And whereas traditional PR may follow a very fixed format, blogging is more free and easy. When we’re reading a blog we want the inside scoop – and that means the blogger giving their opinions and hopefully endorsing your product in some way – so don’t write your usual style press release.
Make sure you send in great images and ask the blog owner what they’re looking for. Oh, and just as with printed media don’t forget to be grateful – a little thank you (I mean literally just thank you – no need to bribe…) goes a long way!
Find out more on how to write blogs: