PR for a startup: Two tips for achieving success
Between January and June 2022, more than 402,000 new businesses were registered in the UK. That equates to around 80 every hour, or one every 45 seconds.
Evidently, neither the pandemic nor the ensuing cost-of-living crisis have managed to dampen the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, the challenges spawned from both tumultuous events have, in turn, created opportunities for entrepreneurs, with innovative new solutions launched to help consumers and businesses through the crises.
This is to be celebrated. What it does mean, however, is that fledgling businesses find themselves in a crowded startup space. That is not only problematic from a commercial perspective, but also for brand-building.
When establishing an early-stage business – whether trying to secure customers, employees, investors or social media followers – the strength of the brand is of utmost importance. This extends far beyond a sharp logo, name and website; it is about having the right ‘digital footprint’. In other words, what would a person find if they searched for your company – what content have you created, what articles are you featured in and what overall impression are they left with.
Here, PR (particularly media relations) is king. After all, public relations is fundamentally about building and maintaining a favourable image of your brand. So, for a startup hoping to stand out from the crowd, achieving PR success is essential.
But how to do it. Well, here are two key pieces of advice.
- 1. Focus on ‘why’
‘Build it and they will come’, as was the tagline of the 1989 Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams. It is an apt concept when it comes to startup PR – there is a common assumption that if one builds an amazing product, then the media coverage will naturally follow.
It is rarely true. For the most part, journalists do not want to provide free advertising to a startup by providing an in-depth review of their business and how it works. Far more important is why your business exists.
As yourself: what pertinent issues are you tackling? How are you making people’s lives easier? Why does a particular market or sector need to be disrupted – what damage is being caused by the traditional ways of doing things?
Journalists will focus on the topics that matter to them and their audience, whether that’s climate change or mental health, business management or diversity and inclusivity, personal finances or investment trends. And as a startup, you must talk about the issues people can relate to – for instance, a new fintech brand would be better served discussing the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation on consumers’ finances than they would the UI and UX of their product.
When devising a holistic PR strategy that addresses the aforementioned questions, it is advisable to use both quantitative and qualitative insights. That is to say, it’s better to have insightful facts and figures – ideally ones gathered by the startups itself rather than widely available. Doing so will bolster communications significantly, turning what could be dismissed as rhetoric into solid context for the business and its offering
With 80 startups formed every hour, the ones which talk about the issues that matter will have their voices heard, not the ones that talk only about themselves.
- 2. Avoid a stop-start approach
One of the most common mistakes startups make when it comes to PR is that they only focus on it in short-burst. Specifically, the only think about PR at key times for the business: product launches and funding rounds are prime examples.
This is understandable. Startups’ resources are limited and they may be managing their media relations and PR internally on a more ad hoc basis. But as much as possible it is advisable to view PR as an ongoing part of the business’ growth strategy.
Journalists must recognise that the business – or its leadership team – is available for comment or interview whenever they may require it. They must understand which topics, issues and trends your brand is keen to talk about.
Journalists do not only want to hear from a business when it is flogging its own news.
Furthermore, when press coverage goes live, the business must be ready to capitalise on this exposure by engaging with more journalists. This enables a startup’s name to become known and for a solid pipeline of press coverage to be developed.
Flipping the switch on and off not only makes it harder to get positive responses from journalists in those small windows of time, but this approach will also mean that a startup only ever secures short bursts of coverage. This is ineffective. You want your brand to appearing in front of a desired audience on a regular basis, building awareness and trust over time. So, whether your startup is looking to attract the attention of consumers, employees, investors or other businesses, consistent and on-going PR is a far more effective and powerful path to success.
Knowing what makes for a killer PR strategy is not easy. Nor is cutting through the noise and grabbing the attention of journalists. But by focusing on the bigger issues at play, and ensuring your startup is constantly considering its PR, media relations and brand-building activities, you will stand a far better chance of emerging out of the crowded startup space ahead of your competitors.
If you need help managing your PR and communications, creating great content, or getting amazing media coverage, get in touch.
About the author
With a history degree, journalism Master’s, and several years’ experience writing about business and technology for both the national and trade press, Dominic moved into the world of content marketing and comms in 2014. He joined City Road Comms in 2016, becoming the agency’s director of comms two years later. Dominic now oversees clients’ strategies and the overall operations of the agency.Email