5 things you should know about start-up PR, from a pro

PR expert Nicole Green shares the tricks of the trade which will help attract journalists and ultimately get your start-up business noticed…

In the world of digital communication, social media and content marketing, the fight to win the attention of customers, hire great talent and impress investors has never been more fierce. Everyone has a platform to tell their story.

Credibility is key, and so building trust between your business and consumers is vital. This is where PR can make a real impact. Today, its definition has become loose and it’s role can vary wildly depending on your needs but understanding the basics is still crucial.

Whether you decide to take on an agency, hire a freelancer or take the DIY route (there is a lot of debate about what start-ups need – but really it depends on the business), there are a few best practice rules that every founder should keep in mind:

1. What’s your story?

Almost every entrepreneur I have met thinks their own venture is the most compelling and exciting business in the market.They live and breathe it everyday, so why should they think any different? But when thinking about crafting a story for press, it is time for a reality check.

Leave your ego behind and simplify everything. You’re not necessarily selling your ‘vision and values’ or your 10 year plan.

Think about what really sets you apart from your competitors now, and how you fit into the wider world. Your personal journey as a business owner (from banker to baker?) could be more compelling than your product.

Which story would your mates share down the pub, or tell their granny? Then ask yourself ‘why now?’ – what’s the news hook?

2. The pitch

Start-ups should be used to pitching. Your pitch to a journalist is your movie trailer, it’s your 10 second advert – so put your hero line up front. Journalists are time poor, just like founders, and receive hundreds if not thousands of pitches every day.

If you want to get cut through you need to capture their attention fast. This is where the importance of the story comes in. If you’re writing an email, don’t get wrapped up in writing paragraphs of text or bogged down in detail – just use the most compelling, important information up front to spark their imagination. Who are you, why do you matter and why are you getting in touch? You can fill in the rest later.

3. Know your audience

Every start-up has a number of different audiences, so understanding who those groups are and what they are interested in is the key to getting their attention. In short – what do you need PR to achieve?

Don’t just seek out coverage for the sake of it. Maybe you’re going to launch your first round of investment – what will those investors be reading? Maybe your priority is to target millennials – where are they looking for content?

Once this has been identified, it’s about tailoring your story to that market. You wouldn’t explain your business to a potential advisor in the same way you’d explain it to your mum, so you should adapt your story to the journalist or outlet you’re pitching to.

4. Read, read, read

Next, it’s time to become a sponge. The most valuable time you can spend on PR will be in reading, not pitching. Once you’ve identified a hit-list of places you would like to see your business covered, read those publications religiously. Does the outlet always run a profile of a founder on a Tuesday, or do they have a product review page you’d like to be featured in?

Next, read up on the journalists that are writing. Set up Google Alerts for their name, follow them on Twitter and pay attention to what else they are interested in and what they are reading. Crucially, keep a keen eye on the news agenda – they are a gold mine for PR opportunities for start-ups.

Is there a new piece of research out that is relevant to your expertise, or a new small business announcement from government you have a view on? Jump on that opportunity – and fast.

5. Be thick-skinned

PR is a tough gig. Success is built over time and you’ll take a few knock backs. Journalists are cynical, so you have to win their trust and favour. The more care you take ensuring your story is interesting, show that you understand the outlet you’re pitching to and spend time building your reputation, the easier it will become. Harsh feedback can also be fantastic learning experience, so take it all on board to improve your pitch for the next time.

Nicole Green is a communications consultant working with start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses.

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