4 PR Trends Your Startup Needs to Do Today
When I was a reporter, I would often be asked, “How come you guys haven’t written about [insert issue/business/person here] yet?”
Most of the time, my answer was simple: “This is the first I’m hearing of it.”
For whatever reason, many people assume that if you’re in the news business, you know everything that is going on, all the time. And that’s simply not so. Sure, journalists are trained to keep their ears to the ground, to stay alert and to always be looking for interesting story material. But they can’t know everything. Journalists are also very busy folks who are almost always on the brink of being overwhelmed with information.
Consider this when looking at how to gain attention for your new business. If you’re building your business, looking to raise awareness and dreaming of that first feature story on you and your product on Forbes or Techcrunch, remember that it takes time to get there. Unless you have a life-altering product or an earth-shattering announcement to make, you’re going to have to start by setting more attainable goals and doing things you can control.
Here are some places you can start.
Don’t Cut To The Chase - Have Chit Chats!
You want to connect with the masses? Start small. Engage with people who are already interested in your industry or related products online – via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, or sites like reddit. By engaging with them (and not simply plugging your product or service, but actually having conversations), you stand to become a friendly face and a trusted source of information. So when you do want to mention your product at some point, you’ll have already earned some cred and goodwill from your potential customers.
Beyond simply chatting with potential customers or answering their questions, John Rampton suggests holding a contest, making your customers feel like part of the team and developing emotional connections with them. For more insight from John, check out his Forbes post here.
If you really want to up your social media game like a PR pro, consider some of the great insight from Onboardly’s PR guru Crystal Richard that you can find right here.
Make Friends with the Famous
That credibility we mentioned? There are people out there, influencers, who already have it. As Jeff Bullas put it in this insightful post, influencers are already talking to your customers. They have built reputations in their industry, amongst their peers and with media. If you can connect with the right people and build your cred with them, they can use their powerful networks to help raise your profile.
What’s nice about working with influencers is that it can seem more “real.” What’s better than a warm review spread by word of mouth? Unlike other traditional forms of advertising that consumers are learning to shut out, positive reviews on social media, coming from real people, is an organic way to reach potential customers.
You probably already have a few names of people in the industry you like and respect, who have name value. How do you tap into their network? Lisa Toner at HubSpot has some stellar suggestions to get you rolling right here.
Be the One People Refer to In Your Industry
You have deep insight into your industry. You know the challenges and victories you’ve faced, and the questions being asked by others interested in your industry. So why not share that insight?
At minimum, you can blog on your website and share thoughts and opinions on issues related to your industry. Blogging is a great SEO booster and posts are easy content to share on social media, potentially converting traffic back to your website. You should also consider submitting articles to sites like Inc. or Forbes that feature loads of thoughtful, interesting content from leaders in all sorts of industries. Be sure to read up on what their criteria for contributed content is before submitting anything, however.
It may seem like a lot of work, but the fact is that content is one of the most critical components of PR today. In late 2015, news distribution hub Marketwired surveyed PR and marketing practitioners, finding that 79% of survey respondents had a content program in place, with the majority planning to increase (64%) or maintain (22%) efforts in 2016.
“It’s clear that relevant, quality content is increasingly important to telling brand stories, boosting customer affinity and driving qualified leads for the sales team,” Sanjay Kulkarni, Marketwired vice president of Product & Marketing, said at the time. (Here is Bulldog Reporter’s story on the survey results.)
Be Famous in Your Own Neighbourhood
We mentioned your Techcrunch and Forbes dreams earlier. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big! And you may get there one day. But in the meantime, go local! Local food and drink are exploding in popularity, and it makes sense that people will see value in other local products. There is a pride people take in finding great quality product made in or near their communities, and your product or service is no exception. Maybe your product is something available nationwide, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start small and try to gain some local media wins.
So, start by familiarizing yourself with reporters at the local daily newspaper and on radio. Check out local blogs. Pay attention to what’s going on in your community and where you and your business might fit in.
Because of that local pride, media in your community might be drawn to talking about you simply because you have a cool product and you’re local. Don’t take it for granted – local reporters are just as busy as their peers at larger outlets. But, getting attention in your community is likely easier than getting major outlets to cover you, and as Susan Peyton points out in this article, they can help build credibility for you as you continue to work toward building brand awareness further afield.
And hey - if you’re feeling creative, you can have fun with it too.
Before you do anything, here’s a little bonus tip for you. We won’t number this one, as it’s not so much a “PR trend” as it is a concrete, never-going-away pillar of PR. This is one you must know and understand, or none of the above will really matter.
Ahem … we’re going to raise our voices a bit for this one.
GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT!
There. That felt good.
One of the things we see at Onboardly is that, while our clients know their products are great and, of course, they know their story – they don’t always know how to tell it. So before you go calling, emailing or tweeting a journalist, make sure you know the important points of your story.
What’s your company’s narrative? What has your journey been like - the ups and the downs? The challenges. Most importantly - why? Why did you start the company or create the product? What was your inspiration? How is your product different or better than the competition’s?
You know all the answers to this, but if you haven’t given them much thought lately, it’s time to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing so that you can clearly, succinctly explain yourself to a reporter.
Startup Smart’s Dinushi Dias wrote an interesting article here based on an interview with the authors of a communications guide for startups (called No Dead Monkeys). In it, the duo suggests holding “core story sessions” with key team members to explore who exactly they are, the problem they’re addressing and where they’re headed. It’s a great exercise to help keep you and your team on point, so you’re all heading in the same direction.
No matter how you’re looking to promote your company, you need to know your story.
Have PR hacks of your own? Feel free to comment below or share with me online @Eric_B_Lewis.