PR seems to be the golden child of a new business marketing arsenal. Send product to waiting journalist, get published, and watch the sales roll in, right? Sure, if you have a sizeable advertising budget to pair with that press release, but public relations in real life is a much longer game, and something that requires consistency, relationships and a little creativity!
This article is specifically for new businesses starting out, but the ‘rules’ can be applied to any business that’s just starting out their relationship with the media.
Firstly, when it comes to working with PR, if you’re still at the minimum viable product (MVP) stage, a fully-fledged PR campaign is unlikely to be the best use of your limited funds, time and resources. Journalists are looking for wins, runs on the board, case studies – the fact that you’ve launched often isn’t enough of a hook to grab their attention. At Deane & Co we have a saying, “Invest in getting your house in order.” That is to say, if you are about to open a bricks and mortar store you don’t throw open the doors, invite people in to look and shop with empty shelves. In this crucial time when you’re still working to prove your concept, spend the time getting your house in order with these simple steps.
1. Know what the purpose of PR is for your business
Public relations, specifically media relations, isn’t necessarily the thing that will make your cash register ring. PR is often more about brand awareness, introducing new customers to what you do, building relationships with journalists, influencers, customers… Don’t go into a PR campaign necessarily expecting a huge increase in sales. It takes repeated mentions of your brand and product across a variety of channels to encourage customers to make the leap to purchase, and relying on PR alone for sales is going to leave you disappointed.
2. Put your best foot forward
Make sure all of your other marketing and promotional channels are on point. Get your website looking beautiful, have professional images of your product, or yourself if you’re selling a service, make sure your social media channels are being regularly updated, and that you can actually handle it if sales do pick up when a journalist presses publish.
3. Create a 1-page general media release or fact sheet
Should media come knocking, you’re going to want an easy to access one page media release at the ready. It shouldn’t be a novel, but it should give readers the who, what, when, where, why and how of your business. At the very least it is brilliant practice at being able to succinctly describe what you do. Add a few quotes from yourself or your co-founder, include examples of the problem you solve, who the journalist should contact if they want more information and a link to hi-res images they can use in a story. Which leads me to the next point…
4. Have a library of images
Headshots and general lifestyle images of your product and/or service will be invaluable should you embark on a PR campaign. Aim for images that are a minimum of 1MB in size and don’t rely on the standard “founder standing against a wall in branded t-shirt” pose. Think outside the box and perhaps get the photographer to photograph you at your favourite cafe. Get a variety of images in portrait and landscape. The same applies to product shots. Lots of publications, both print and digital will only want deep etched (white background) images so they can create larger composite images with other brands. They may also want campaign shots, but it pays to have both easily accessible.
5. Know 5 things you could confidently talk about that are happening in your industry
Sometimes PR is talking about the bigger picture things influencing your industry. Think about and write down five things you could talk about relevant to your industry but doesn’t put a megaphone up to your startup and says, “Me, me, me.” For example, are you able to talk about what it takes to source an overseas manufacturer, have you started a business in a traditionally male-dominated arena, or are you seeing travel trends influence how consumers book and spend their leisure time? All of these are ways you can promote your experience and as a by-product your startup.
6. PR isn’t just about media
Public Relations can also include events, activations, working with influencers, community building activities and more – media isn’t the be all and end all for promoting your brand, particularly as publishers are becoming more aspirational and less a catalogue of potential purchases.
7. Think outside the box
The traditional media release really isn’t the way to get attention any more. Journalists get so many across their desks, they often don’t have time to read or respond. Instead, try emailing a journo with a very brief intro email, detailing the 3-5 hooks or headlines they might be able to write out of your story. Alternatively, send them something tangible – a colourful jewellery brand might send a jar of bright lollies with a ring hidden inside!
When working with startups, we strongly advise our clients to consider where they will get the most value for their money. If you’re chasing sign ups to your new app or really need to speak directly to people within a niche industry, the financial investment of engaging a PR agency or contractor in your early days might be better invested in, for example, engaging a business development manager, a digital marketing strategy or similar. Food for thought!