5 Reasons Why Your DIY PR is Failing

5 Reasons Why Your DIY PR is Failing

Nowadays, everyone and their dog is all about the DIY lifestyle. With the rise of Pinterest (the center of the DIY universe), the makers movement and home improvement shows galore, it’s no wonder we’re inspired now more than ever to do things ourselves. Perhaps you’re doing it for the challenge, perhaps you’re doing it to save a little cash. Either way, the fact remains: this project, whatever it may be, is now all on you.

In the Startup PR world, we see people doing it themselves all day, every day. After all, PR can be an expensive endeavour if you’re enlisting the help of an agency or consultant. With plenty of online courses to show you the ways of PR in just a few worksheets or videos (ahem, our Ultimate PR Machine is one of them) — you can go from knowing nothing to know it all overnight.


Well, sort of.

Not Another Sports Analogy

Let’s think about sports for a moment. We can all learn how to ski or ice skate. We’re taught how to ride a bike or hit a baseball at a young age. With some trial and error, a few bruised knees, scratches or broken bones, we can all eventually figure these activities out. It’s mastering these skills that can be the hard part. Many of us hit the slopes in the winter, how many of us go pro or get sponsored by Rossignol?

Think about DIY PR in the same respect. Anyone can learn how to write a press release or pitch a journalist, but the number of do it yourselfers actually securing incredible media placements, repeatedly, month over month? That’s reserved for a select few and while many of these are pros, there’s a few skillful founders and team members making PR magic happen for their startups.

The rest of these DIYers? Well, they’re wiping out.

And here’s why.

One: Resist the Power of the Media Release Template

If you’ve ever won an award or received a recognition for your company, you may have been provided with a quick and easy do it yourself press kit, including the aforementioned media release template. These templates are designed to be simple and only require you to tweak a few things, throw in a quote and poof! You’ve just polished off a media ready release.

Or not.

While the media release template is great if you’re only planning to publish the news on your company’s website or distribute it on the news wire, if you’re planning to share it with the media, you’ve already failed. I don’t mean to dismiss the template, it’s only trying to help, but journalists can spot these PR helpers a mile away.

The Solution: Get creative, do it yourselfers. If distributing a press release is an absolute must, use a template to guide you, but write it start to finish yourself. Avoid simply stating your news and instead, tell a story. Make it conversational. There’s a reason people hate press releases — few are exciting. Imagine how powerful yours will be if it stands out from the rest.

Two: You’re Pitching Now, Friending Later

Dear Startup Founder. I get it. You’re busy. Which means you probably don’t have a ton of time to get to know the media and the journalists you plan to pitch your next launch, feature news, or milestone. You’re working closely with your development team. You’ve got to hire another programmer. You’re travelling all over the country to meet with investors.

I’m here to tell you, these excuses, while valid, are exactly what will crush you when it comes time to share your story with the media.

One of the many reasons companies decide to work with an agency or hire a PR consultant, is because they’ve already got a ton of relationships forged. And guess what? It took us a lot of time, energy, and patience to get there. So we totally understand that making friends in all the right places seems like a huge undertaking. The problem is, it’s an undertaking that you’ve simply got to undertake: one, day, at, a, time.

The Solution: One of the BEST ways to get to know a journalist that has worked wonders for us here at Onboardly, is through Twitter. Once you’ve identified who you want to pitch, add them all to a private Twitter list and follow each and every one of them. Brownie points if you can scatter your following across several days so that journalists don’t clue in to the fact that you’ve just mass followed twenty of their kind.

Next, start engaging with them regularly. Like their tweets, share their content, comment on how cute that photo they just tweeted of their dog is. Engage like a normal human and do this for several weeks before ever pitching them. When the time comes to reach out, tweet them first and get their permission to send an idea their way.

We promise, nine out of ten times, this will get you in the door faster than a cold pitch.

Three: You’re Suffering From ‘Only So Many Hours in the Day’ Syndrome

Brace yourself: PR takes A LOT of work.


Whatever amount of time you think you should put into PR, double that and then double-it again. Am I exaggerating? Not one bit. Because the amount of time put into pitching and getting to know the media is directly correlated to how successful you are at PR, there really is no such thing as too much time spent on it.

That being said, one of the disadvantages to doing it yourself is that you’re juggling a hundred balls in the air as a founder, and PR is merely one of them. No matter how much time you try to spend doing it, it never works out to be as much as you’d like nor does it equal as much as it should.

The Solution: Besides the obvious — hire help — there are some ways around making enough time to do PR. For starters, if there’s someone on your team that is open to stepping up to the plate, appointing another member of your team to either manage PR or help you with your PR efforts will go a long way. If you both remain dedicated, it should double your efforts and allow you to see greater results.

If enlisting the help of someone else on your team isn’t an option, try scheduling specific times during the week to dedicate solely to PR. Block it off on your calendar, sign-out of Slack if necessary. Treat this time as PR ONLY and go heads down to get it done.

Four: Everything is Not News

One of the most common mistakes we see companies make every day, is failing to recognize whether or not something is newsworthy. Going it alone with PR is hard enough as it is, don’t make it unnecessarily harder by pitching something no one is going to publish.

While it’s really easy to get excited about company milestones such as hitting a certain number of downloads, scoring so many users, or launching that new website, you MUST weigh the importance of your news with the news of every other startup or tech company in the world. On any given day, look at the latest coverage on VentureBeat or TechCrunch. Notice something in common? Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Facebook.

Have I made my point?

The Solution: Every day, tech journalists have news they are required to cover and many are at capacity as it is. Each one of the tech giants mentioned above has news of some sort on the daily and every day, your company is competing against them for coveted placement. Before assuming your news is important to the rest of the world, take this into consideration.

If you’re still unsure if your news is newsworthy, share it with a sounding board. Most of you have friends and colleagues in the industry. Don’t be afraid to get the opinion of a few unbiased colleagues to gauge whether or not what you’ve got to share is something they’d click on. If they’re cautious about agreeing that it’s news they’d care about, it’s probably not.


Five: You’re Trying to Rush a Good Thing

As stressful as the PR experience may be, it’s also supposed to be fun and exciting. You’re making new media relationships, you’re getting your story out there, and in the end, you’re seeing your company mentioned among the greats in the headlines. It’s a total high, which explains why the temptation to rush it exists, but I’m telling you now: slow your roll.

DIYer or not, we often see companies pressing go on a launch date two weeks out, then scrambling to get all of their media ducks in a row over that two week time span. Realistic if you’re a seasoned PR pro with a trusty rolodex but unrealistic if you’re new to the game and are testing everything you’ve learned for the first time.

Yes, pressure from investors to launch exists. Yes, your pre-launch phase is getting expensive and you just need to get your product out there so that you can start making money. This is a common concern, but rushing the experience may do you more harm than good.


The Solution: The reality is, you’re unlikely to hit a homerun with the first journalist you pitch. Chances are, you’ll need to pitch a few folks at each outlet to find the right fit and someone with capacity to cover your news. We recommend waiting three business days before following up after your initial email and then 24 hours before sending to someone new after the follow up. That’s at least four to five business days per writer. Taking into consideration that you may need to try two or three writers to confirm coverage, you can understand why allowing yourself at least two to three weeks from the time your media assets (press release and media kit) are ready to do proper outreach is key. More time leads to greater odds for PR magic.

DIY PR can be a huge success or a hot mess — it’s all in how you tackle the challenge. So remember the following DYI tips and tricks next time you’re pitching the media.

  1. Avoid the temptation of a press release template. Instead, get creative and tell a story.
  2. Always dedicate time to making friends with the media. It will make or break you.
  3. PR takes time. A lot of it. Make sure that your company is getting the time and energy it deserves by enlisting help or blocking out the time needed to make some PR waves.
  4. Not everything is newsworthy and knowing this is the first step. Make sure whatever news you’re pitching is something the readers will care about.
  5. Allow yourself enough time to line up media for your launch or news announcement.

Is your DIY PR struggling? What obstacles or challenges are you facing? Leave us a comment below - we’d love to offer our advice!    

What do you think?

One Comment

“Pitching now, friending later” — that’s my favorite. A basic principle that bears the perennial reminder!