Paying Your Startup’s Way? Here are 7 Ways to Do PR Your Way Too
Running a company? It costs A LOT of money.
It costs even more money, it seems, when you’re a scrappy startup, braving the real world and facing obstacle, after obstacle on the regular. There are a lot of costs involved - that’s a no brainer. And then there are all of those unforeseen costs you never saw coming. Those are SO fun aren’t they?
When you’re unsure of your budget and a little nervous about sinking money into the uncertain, making the decision to work with a PR agency can be terrifying. For many, it’s simply not a cost you can afford right now.
You know what? It’s going to be OK. If you’re paying your startup’s way, here are 7 ways to do PR your way too and we promise, you’ll live to tell about it.
1. Subscribe to HARO
Shhh. Come a little closer.
I’m about to tell you one of my go to secrets for getting quick media wins and scoring some pretty baller press contacts. And yes, I’m giving this to you in tip #1, so just imagine how fantastic the following six tips will be if I’m leaving the best for last!
Let me introduce you to a little thing we in the industry call “Help a Reporter Out” or HARO as we fondly refer to it as. HARO is a newsletter distributed to those subscribed three times a day, Monday through Friday. In it, are dozens, if not hundreds of journalists and writers looking for specific sources for their stories.
Do you know how many amazing media wins we’ve secured for clients thanks to HARO? I don’t, and the reason is, because there have been SO many we lost count. HARO is free, it’s easy to use, and if you’re on top of your game and know your stuff, you can score some really great media mentions for your company or brand.
Level Up: Use HARO to identify outlets you never knew existed and find new journalists at pitch at outlets you’re already after.
2. Multi-Task on the Social Front
Ok, so chances are you or your brand are on social media repping the company. You’re sharing news, you’re posting your blog’s content, you’re engaging with your fans, customers, and all the folks in between that stumble upon you and think you’re cool. AWESOME. Keep that up.
But did you know that social media, or more specifically, Twitter, is a fantastic way to get to know journalists and as a result, score some pretty epic media coverage? Did I just blow your mind?
Engaging with media on Twitter is actually what led to us recently placing a client in an amazing feature in Forbes. It’s also how we scored a client’s “million dollar wish” to be on their favorite radio show. Simply by interacting and engaging with the press on social media.
You’re already on there, doing your thing, so why not multitask and create some private Twitter lists of all of the media you’d like to impress. Make a note to engage with them as regularly as you can by sharing their content, answering their questions, and making small talk about the weather, dogs, and the latest internet meme gone viral.
Level Up: Think you’ve got what it takes to pitch your startup in 140 characters or less? Try a pitch over Twitter or take it to DM and see if you can keep it short and sweet, even after Twitter removed the 140 character limit in Direct Messaging. Trust me. If your DM is 140 characters or less,, they’ll need to cover you for awesomeness alone.
3. Multi-Task on the Content Front
Alright, so you’re now becoming best friends with the media on Twitter. It’s time to talk about multi-tasking on the content marketing front. Chances are, your company has a blog. If it doesn’t, simply use this tip as motivation to start one or skip to number four.
I know that you’re actively creating really great content for the blog. Whether it’s you or your team writing it, it’s getting published and people are sharing it and giving it the love it deserves. So why not find a way to incorporate some of your favorite journalists into your content?
Now, depending on what you write about, this could be easier said than done, but let me share what we’ve done here at Onboardly with you. Because our expertise is PR, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to interview a number of journalists or influencers for our blog. We’ve created fun and interesting round-up posts sharing what they’re thankful for on Thanksgiving. The point is, we’ve found neat and unique ways to interview these folks to feature them on the blog, and ultimately we got to be pals with them.
And what happens next? Strong relationships we may have never forged otherwise.
Level Up: Don’t be shy. We landed a phone interview with entrepreneur and full-time stock trader, Timothy Sykes, simply by asking.
4. Get out of the Office More
The average cost of a PR agency retainer can start at $5000. The average cost of attending a conference such as GrowCo or Call to Action? Less than that, especially if you’re thrifty. Attending conferences, especially those that attract the media or are hosted by the media (such as the aforementioned GrowCo by Inc.) are fantastic ways to meet media in person and get some of their best kept secrets on being pitched at their panels.
When I attended GrowCo in Nashville last year, not only did I come home with new business for Onboardly, but I made some pretty fantastic Inc. contacts that led to multiple media pieces for our clients. Yes, you may have to splurge on some flights and hotel, depending on where you’re located, but the on-going return on this kind of investment will be totally worth it if you get out and make the connections.
Level Up: Some conferences will have special events or dinners within the conference to score more one on one time with the media. For example, GrowCo hosts a dinner with the editors. If you can, definitely spring for these add-ons to get the most out of your experience.
5. Freelance Your Releases
Writing a press release? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Especially if you’re on the do it yourself PR train. But here’s the thing. Just because you don’t have an in-house PR team to write your releases, doesn’t mean you can’t have one.
Ever heard of Freelancer? It’s home to thousands of freelancers, many with backgrounds in communications that would love to write your press release. And I promise you, the price of hiring a freelancer to draft your media release will still be less than an agency retainer.
Want to go more local? See if there’s a college or university in your area with a communications or PR program. These students are just dying to write their first real release to be used in the wild, so give them a shot at helping you with yours. Chances are, their fees won’t be nearly as high as a pro freelancer (or agency) and given they want to impress, it may even be better than the pros.
Level Up: Want to go against the grain? Don’t write a press release. Go the creative route and share your announcement on your company blog or draft a compelling opinion piece on Medium, explaining your company news or spotlighting your latest milestone. Share THAT with the media and watch the difference in reception.
6. Outsource Your Media List
What is one of the most time consuming tasks for any public relations professional? Well, after pitching the media (which is a never ending cycle I might add) it’s building your media list. Depending on how many outlets or industries you’re looking to tackle, sourcing outlets and then the perfect fit for journalists to pitch there can be a daunting task. At the very least, it’s a huge time sucker.
Ever hear of Virtual Assistants? Think of hiring a VA on Zirtual or enlisting the help of someone from UpWork to help you craft your media list. With a good set of instructions, some context and a few do’s and don’ts, these highly talented pros can build a list while you’re focusing on the things that matter most, like scaling your company, impressing investors and keeping your customers happy.
Level Up: Super crunched for time? Try out MuckRack for access to hundreds of thousands of journalists neatly organized by their beat. With a pro subscription, you can email them directly from the platform. Boom!
7. Remember That Being Your own Publicist is a Good Thing
Last thing to remember, and quite honestly, the most important - being your own publicist is actually a GOOD thing. Yes, that’s my big secret and yes, it probably goes against everything a publicist or PR agency SHOULD tell you. The reality is, a journalist would rather hear from the founder themselves ANY DAY.
PR is hard. It’s time consuming. It’s not for everyone, which is exactly why we work in sync to complement the awesome work startups are already doing. While we do the heavy lifting, founders focus on what they do best.
But if money is tight and you’re left doing it all on your own, trust me: journalists are going to listen to what you have to say. Just make sure your story is solid and your hook is sharp. You’ve got this.
Have you tackled PR on your own for your startup? What is your number one tip? What did you find the hardest? I’d love to hear in the comments below or tweet me @crystalcrichard!