In an ideal world, your startup would capture public attention based on brilliance alone. However, the reality is that you’re going to need Public Relations to bring your company from unknown outsider to household name. If you’re an early-stage startup with unlimited ideas but limited funds, check out our five DIY PR tips below.
It’s important to recognise that without the existing relationships you get with a pro PR firm, you’re starting at square one, and your strategy should reflect that. Instead of sending a blind pitch for Wired’s “Top 10 App Developers of the Year” list, the smart thing to do is to enter the media conversation through the side door.
Journalists need quotes from reputable sources to add depth and credibility to their stories. Writers are much more likely to cover your startup if you first prove that you can be a useful resource to them. Sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out), a free daily e-newsletter from PR tool Cision, which lists queries from journalists that anyone can respond to.
If selected, your quote (and company name) would appear in a reputable outlet with a backlink to your site. This could lead to an ongoing relationship with that journalist, who may eventually return the favor by writing about you.
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Many sites accept pieces from contributors who have expertise in a certain field, and you can apply via online forms (try Entrepreneur and Forbes). These pieces won’t feature your company directly, but will provide backlinks to your site from a respected authority, and help establish you as a thought leader. One contributor reported that his company gains 100+ Twitter followers for each Entrepreneur guest post he writes.
The third way to establish authority is to pitch your founder as a speaker or panelist at a conference or award show. While these spaces are looking for big names, they are also always on the hunt for rising stars. For instance, pitch a panel at SXSW or apply to be a speaker at Social Media Week.
Once quotes from your team start popping up in tech industry articles, use that credibility to go for your first press hits. Your instinct might be to blast out a press release to all the top tech sites, but considering the number of unsolicited pitches these journalists receive daily, this is likely to fail. One solution? Think lifestyle, instead.
In 2016, tech touches all aspects of life — fashion, art, food, music. If you expend your efforts going after TechCrunch and Gizmodo, you may get lost in the shuffle. Pitching stories to lifestyle sites whose subject matter relates peripherally to your company helps you stand out. A few years ago, Teen Vogue may not have covered new apps, but now such pieces are commonplace. Refinery29 has a tech writer, and VICE has an art + tech channel. Get creative.
For an even better chance at getting into these outlets, go for the freelancers. While staff writers are constantly bombarded with information and stuck in the office all day, freelancers are more flexible with their time and ideas, have existing relationships with editors, and are always looking for compelling stories. Offer to take a freelancer to lunch, and get their take on how to position your brand so it will wow their editors.
With a little effort, these small steps guarantee big results for your brand.