September 1st, 2014 14:06 EST
The Underrated Tool for Startup Success
Public relations, broadly defined, is any activity related to keeping a brand/person top of mind within a particular industry and among business and consumer targets in a positive way. There`s a slew of articles from online pundits and industry insiders out there claiming that startup companies don`t actually need PR. The venerable Fast Company tells us that with enough passion and hustle, you can get your message out there under your own steam.
That`s all fine and good, if you have the passion and hustle to spare. However, the startup life is all about passion and hustle. By the time you`re ready to come to market, will you have much hustle left in the tank? And even if you have bottomless energy and drive (lucky you!) - is your PR campaign the best use of your time and expertise? It takes concerted effort and intelligent tactics, often on the part of a dedicated individual, to cut through the `noise` surrounding today`s crowded startup landscape.
PR professional Ane Howard, of AneHelpsStartups.com, agrees. Startup founders often possess impressive educational and technical pedigrees, but lack marketing skills. They may present the most disruptive and revolutionary offer, but do not understand the importance of honing their storytelling skills.
There`s more than one way to get your idea in front of the eyes of the world. Undoubtedly, one of the first items in your launch plan was your website and social media channels. And you may have joined an ad network that`s putting your banners on some of the best and brightest industry sites out there. These are good, positive moves. However, PR is a completely different animal: your website and social channels are owned media; advertising is bought media; while public relations is a form of earned media. A Nielsen study in 2013 found earned media was the most trusted source of information for consumers worldwide. Earned media offers your startup a credibility boost via the endorsement of a third party talking about your brand.
The foundations you lay with your initial public outreach will affect your company`s lifelong relationship with the press. Media are swamped with press releases and `novel` approaches every day. You don`t want to be just more `hot air` blown in their direction; be a breath of fresh air by delivering value with your story. A good PR strategy will help you get your messaging right " a consistent story about your brand, and why you are important and newsworthy. It`s crucial that you don`t rush the development of your narrative and messaging. It`s not necessary to be the first to market, but rather to be able to tell the world why you are the best.
We`ve all seen the startup launches that become viral overnight sensations. It would be easy to expect that every launch, or at least yours, will turn out that way " especially when you feel certain that you are the best of the best and what you are bringing to market is going to be the most disruptive game changer the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, it just doesn`t work that way, no matter how good you are at what you do. Laying the groundwork for an effective and successful launch takes time. Expect to spend anywhere up to three to six months planning, shaping and deploying your media campaign. There`s plenty of `PR 101`-style resources online for startups who feel confident about taking the DIY route in-house; however, if you simply don`t have the time and skills necessary for this undertaking, consider engaging a PR consultant.
The right PR professional for your startup`s needs is going to have a skillset that includes social media, branding, Web 2.0 and traditional PR. They`re going to maximise the return from your existing promotional channels, leverage plenty of opportunity for that very important earned media " press, endorsement, recommendations and so on " and ensure that all of this is aligned under your brand`s powerful message. (For examples of how this looks in practice, visit AneHelpsStartups.com.)
Whether DIY or pro, the importance of creating and implementing a PR and branding strategy is undeniable, to capitalise on every form of media available and maximise your startup`s success.