All press is good press? Busting 7 PR myths

Speaking during London Tech Week, Nick Braund of PHA Media offered tech start-ups valuable insight on how to grab airtime and column inches

Vital for any tech start-up, attracting the attention of the media can bring a whole host of benefits. While the likelihood of your business instantly becoming a household name after one feature is slim, national or even local coverage can work well in attracting the attention of possible investors or customers.

However, the old Oscar Wilde quip that ‘the only thing worse in life than being talked about is not being talked about’ certainly wasn’t designed for the tech space! A poorly timed stunt or promoting your business too early can spell doom for even the most promising start-up.

With an extremely flashy and crowded marketplace, finding the time and even resources to gain any sort of press coverage can seem a daunting task. Above all else, while somewhat overstated now, ‘content is king’ certainly rings true in this instance and PR is more than just throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Speaking during London Tech Week, Nick Braund of PHA Media was ready to debunk the many myths of PR – with Startups on hand to see what advice he could offer tech entrepreneurs…

“PR is not another form of advertising”

The first and probably must crucial thing to understand is that PR simply isn’t advertising. No matter how much money you spend on (what you may perceive as) good PR, you’ll never be 100% guaranteed coverage. Quite frankly, your baby isn’t as beautiful as you think it is.

However, you can certainly make things easier for both yourself and journalists by understanding what actually constitutes as ‘newsworthy’. Simply sending off a press release of what your product does will more than likely end you up in the hands of a sales director rather than the tech editor so ask yourself a few honest questions:

  • What does my product solve?
  • How is it different to others?
  • Why would a journalist write about us?
  • Why would someone want to read about us?      

Once you’ve answered these, make sure your ‘story’ will have an angle. What purpose will it fill? And how will it help the reader? Make sure your content is either one or more of the following:

  • Varied
  • Helpful
  • Opinionated
  • Entertaining 

Often, the person can be more interesting than the product, so think about your story and anything that makes you special. People will be more likely to buy into your product if they feel it has some form of a human element.

“Start-ups can’t compete with the big guns”

A common misconception among tech start-ups is that they’ll lose the PR war against the industry heavyweights – this simply isn’t true. The fact you’re competing against them could be THE reason you’ll gain traction (who doesn’t love an underdog story?!). Headlines such as ‘British start-up to rival Microsoft’ might seem overly ambitious, but at least it’ll gain attention.

The trick is to use your start-up nature to your advantage. While a company like Microsoft might have to spend millions shifting their focus and structure, as a small team you can react and adapt quicker to your surroundings. Think about any particular insights you may have from your success thus far. Do you have any natural areas of expertise or expert opinion? Think about potential issues you’d be particularly informed on.

It might be worth targeting 24-hour news stations such as Sky News – they won’t have the same expert on twice in one day so there could be a space for you alongside Kay Burley! Unlike print or online coverage, live TV allows you the opportunity to say things that won’t get edited out. Don’t say anything inflammatory or go OTT – but certainly push your company into your answers a little more than usual.

“All press is good press”

An incredibly valuable piece of advice (and one that many still wrongly believe), is that being talked about is NOT always better than not being talked about. Remember that you’ll only get one chance to launch and only fools rush in. Indeed, a common trait among failed tech start-ups is that they become too excited at the prospect of launching – and do just that, launch but much too early. An unpolished product won’t do much to woo investors or consumers and you may find yourself on the end of some rather poor reviews before you’ve even ‘properly’ started. Journalists will always look for something tangible, so make sure you have either launched or received funding before you dream of sending them a release.

Once again, remember that large stories dominate. Why not consider giving comment on the issue of the day but so it’s relevant to your business. For example, with Brexit – do you benefit from any staff members who may have to leave the EU if a Leave vote wins? The BBC and SKY have editorial obligations to cover every story within the first six pages of the national broadsheets, so scan the papers and find an angle.

Remember that your press release or response to any issue should just be short and snappy. Only send key quotes and don’t shoehorn yourself – think about new arguments you haven’t seen broadcast.

“Journalists are experts”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, journalists aren’t experts! It’s a fact of journalistic life that writers live and breathe by their content and this often comes in the form of data – data that tech companies often don’t realise they have in their arsenal.

Think about potential exclusive findings you have on behavioural patterns or consumer trends. If not, conduct surveys and get some. The data doesn’t have to have anything to do with your product and will be quite attractive if it comes with a human element. Purplebricks used data they had that suggested people who didn’t own a house by 30 considered themselves a failure – and received nationwide coverage.

“Good products do not need PR…only bad ones do”

With consumer faith in advertising at an all-time low, tech giants have already realised that validation is really what both businesses and consumers are after. With a massive ‘review culture’ in the tech industry, most consumers now focus their attention on journalistic opinion rather than a flashy ad on the London underground when deciding what latest tech to purchase. But regardless of how good your product actually is, no one will buy it (or review it) if they haven’t heard of it.

Some tech companies can go all out in an effort to get their latest launch noticed by the masses but as a small tech start-up remember that PR stunts are incredibly dangerous. Not only do they often carry great expense, but such incidents are based on one moment in time and good luck is essential. You might spend half your budget on a crazy innovative way for people to recognise your brand – but if a world event such as the birth of a Royal baby occurs on the same day – the national papers won’t have to think twice about what they’ll cover. Though it may be tempting, go for long term coverage and leave nothing to chance.

“PR will not impact the bottom line”

Another unfortunate sober truth, good PR coverage is absolutely no guarantee of sales. While it will almost certainly engage with people on a human level, there’s no way of ensuring this will convince them to buy your product.

Once again, however, you can minimise the chance of this happening by taking a few simple steps. Remember that “not all case studies are born equal”. Think about what your data says about your product, what does it prove? Similarly, think about any potentially influential buyers you have. Could a celebrity or even medical expert endorse your product or provide you with a testimonial? Think along these lines.

“PR is just about churning press releases”

The phrase ‘too much information’ takes an added meaning for journalists who are often inundated with press releases upon opening their inbox. Make your press releases short and snappy with no more than four main points.

Try and be specific to both the publication and the person too – for example, only email the political editor if you wish to make a comment on a political matter.

You should also consider your timing if you’re targeting national newspapers. Try and contact them first thing in the morning while they’re fresh and still looking for content – anything after 3.30pm and their day is nearly done. Sunday papers can also sometimes struggle for content so make sure to pitch to them, but remember that Mondays and Tuesdays are their weekend so hit them first thing Wednesday morning. Keep the topics hot and specific – gender in tech is always good and you may put different emphasis on press releases for a broadsheet and tabloid even if they’re owned by the same company.

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  1. anil vora
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    Nick
    An excellent article. Our thoughts
    You say “Good products do not need PR…only bad ones do”
    We sat “Good products with good PR is an unicorn” Regardless, we give 90% to good products, 10% to PR
    We are saying the above after having commercialized 106 mass market inventions on global basis since 1994.
    Anil