Startups and entrepreneurs often look towards bloggers and journalists to raise attention and make some noise around ther brand, product or services. Usually this is achieves through a PR agency or themselves directly going to media sources to pitch their business. Unfortunately many of these startup pitches and “how we set up” stories fall down and get ignored, wasting time and money for everyone. For example, here’s a pitch from a PR professional. I’ve changed it slightly to avoid embarrassing anyone: “I’m working with a wonderful new business… The owners grew up together and decided to go into business… it’s a story I’m sure your readers will care a lot about!” Uh, no. It's unlikely that people are going to care about this story Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the entrepreneurs are great people, but many entrepreneurs can tell a tale of struggle and euphoria and heartbreak and someday, against all odds, turning their dreams into reality and making their business a success. While occasionally readers might be inspired or motivated, for the most part we’re just not that interested in other people’s stories. Unless those stories are particularly remarkable we're more apt to just keep living our own dreams and writing our own stories. So, the things we're interested in is not other people's stories, but information that helps us write our own.
So what should you do if you’re trying to spread the word about new products and services, landing new customers, bringing investors onboard… all the stuff you hire PR agencies to do for you or, more likely, try to do on your own?
If you’re looking for press, forget the formulaic, cookbook approach to crafting a winning media pitch. That approach may result in coverage in a few outlets… but not the ones you really want. Here are 5 key questions you should answer before you take the plunge with your PR.
01 What do you actually want to achieve?It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get swept away by the first flush of column inches. It’s not enough just to want “to get a piece in the latest startups site or magazine. Do you need to attract investors? Do you need key hires? Do you need a quick increase in user numbers? Set you key objectives you hope to get from any exposure before you do anything else. From here it’ll be much easier to brief anyone else correctly.
02 What’s your timeline?Getting scattergun press coverage around product launch is great, but it can be really difficult to follow up. I see many companies enjoy an initial spike of interest and then drop completely off the radar in those critical following months. Think about your product timeline, and consider how you want to knit a full communications strategy into that plan.
03 What’s your budget?Have an idea of what you are willing to spend, considering the factors above. Whether that’s an external agency fee, human-hours within your company or a completely new hire. If you’re going with an external agency, then look for ones that don’t just offer standard retainers, but also ones that are willing to offer project-based work. That way, you can see how they perform around a single task. Also realise that it will involve a spend to do this properly. Communications and marketing should be built into your budget and not just added as an afterthought once your product is market-ready, especially if you’re a B2C product.
04 What’s your story?What three words describe your company values? Would all your team give the same answer? Spend half a day internally nailing down your core qualities. From there, it’s much easier to begin working on the rest of your communications. What’s your context, what do you do differently? What voices can you add to a discussion in your market? What’s your story? And who are you telling it to? This is where the fresh pairs of eyes at an agency can give a new perspective. Ask an agency for a handful of ideas in their pitch. At the very least it will demonstrate that they “get” what you’re doing and you can gauge their creative fit.
05 Who else is doing this well?Which companies in your space are succeeding at this?And why? And do you have a robust angle or statement as to why you are different? Journalists like to have a product placed in context but also the justification as to why you’re offering something different to the market.