We work with a ton of great startups, and PR plays a huge role in our customer acquisition strategies. And while none of our clients would ever make these mistakes (…), we thought we’d take a minute and outline a list of 10 major misconceptions startups have when considering PR.
1. The “We don’t need PR yet” state of mind
We get it. You have a million things on your plate right now and you haven’t had a decent shower in days – never mind the last time you slept a full 8 hours. Why? Because you’re a startup founder and it’s anything but easy. Which is why PR is the last thing on your mind. Your product is awesome – won’t it just sell itself? Very few are that lucky. To ensure great media coverage when you launch, start thinking about PR a year to six months prior.
2. Drinking too much of your own kool-aid
There’s a reason you’re a startup founder and not flipping burgers. You’re smart and you’ve got mad hustle. But even some of the world’s most successful people have bad ideas or lapses in judgement. Before you lash out at seemingly negative review or a half-wit competitor that blatantly ripped off your idea, remember to take a minute to breathe.
Take advantage of the wealth of feedback social media can provide and yes, this means listening to the critics as loudly as the cheerleaders. You may get a ton of mentions but they may not all be what you’d hoped. Learn from mistakes. Value criticism. The most successful founders admit that it was the negative press helped them the most in the early days.
3. Not recognizing the value of regular PR efforts
The idea of PR to some seems may seem rather simple. PR firms get you publicity, publicity drives sales, you’re on your way to living the dream. Sure, sometimes that’s the case but while you should trust your PR firm to get you media coverage, it’s also important you understand how they’re doing it. In the event you don’t get the results you wanted you have an idea where things went wrong and how to get back on track. PR requires consistency and nurturing over time. Always make sure you’re getting the most out of your PR firm by treating like a long-term relationship. If you express that you’re in it for the long haul, they’ll work even harder to keep that relationship going strong.
4. Thinking you’re the only one who knows how to sell your story
Yes. You know your product. But while you’re unbeatable at developing, raising capital and closing deals, PR firms are good with words. Selling a brand isn’t rocket science but there’s a trick to doing it in a way that sticks. Depending on the prospective audience, your story may need to be told in 5, 10 or 15 different ways. A good PR firm knows that trick, so be flexible – if they leave out the part about you getting the idea on the toilet, it’s probably for the best.
5. Not taking advantage of making PR connections your connections
Just because your new PR firm has connections at that tech blog you’ve dreamed of being featured on, doesn’t mean you don’t have to lift a finger. While it’s great that they went to band camp with one of the feature writers ten years ago, that writer might not see the value in featuring your company no matter how great of an accompanist your PR pro was back then.
PR is a joint-effort, which means you need to be actively building relationships too. And if that means reaching out to writers yourself, you should. Sometimes finding common ground or a shared interest can be just the spark that writer needs to get your story told.
6. The “everything is always under control” mindset
The internet doesn’t sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes you and your PR firm need to, even if it’s only four hours a night. It takes seconds for one bad tweet or comment to appear online and while your PR firm knows how to handle bad press, it’s irresponsible to not have a back-up plan. If you can predict a crisis, you know how to resolve a crisis. Work with your PR firm to have an approach available for all curve balls the world might throw at you. You’ll sleep better – we promise.
7. Your media release didn’t get picked up, time to give up?
While it’s extremely discouraging to work hard on a media release only to get no press, it certainly isn’t a sign you should give up. You also shouldn’t take it out on your PR firm. After all, they probably pitched your company the way you wanted them to. Take a step back, look at your company and product again, and re-strategize. Sometimes tweaking your approach is all it takes to get traction.
8. Avoid unrealistic expectations
We’re not saying don’t dream big but PR firms may be able to knock you down a few notches and put you in the right frame of mind to tackle the media successfully. Everybody wants to be featured on the front page of Wall Street Journal but is it a realistic goal for your company and what you have to offer today? Trust your PR firm when they offer their advice on which goals may be unattainable – it doesn’t mean your company isn’t good enough, it just means there’s somewhere’s even better for it to be shared.
9. Don’t be mysterious. Give your PR Firm what they need
A well put together media kit and press release can go a long way – that is if it has all the necessary information to properly build a story on your company. While we aren’t saying you should dish out all of your financials, you should offer key pieces of info that writers will be looking for and keep an up-to-date AngelList profile for any additional tidbits they may want, such as dates and funding news. You wouldn’t sell a house without specs in the listing, now would you? Give the details needed to successfully sell your story.
10. Don’t be cheap
You may be thinking, of course we would say this but it’s true. As with all things, you get what you pay for. And while money may be tight in the early days of a startup, PR is one area where you should not be stingy. Do your research, ask around. Look at what firms other successful startups have worked with and find one with a great reputation at a price you can manage. Look for representation that will take equity in lieu of an all-cash payout. The best PR people are the ones who really believe in what you do – and trading time for equity is a sure sign that they believe in you.