The Importance of PR for Startups
Why do we use PR?
Because it works. Public Relations has proven to be one of the most effective ways to tell your story. Statistically speaking, studies have shown it to be almost 90% more effective than other advertising channels, and unlike most advertising options, getting started is free!
As a startup, one of your main goals should be to build a positive brand and reputation. Using effective PR helps to create awareness, and allows for more control over the way your company is perceived by customers, media, and the industry at large. If done right, this awareness turns to trust, thus driving leads, success, and profit.
So if PR is the ultimate tool to long-term success, why does it seem that so many startups aren’t making it a priority? Unfortunately, PR often makes it onto a young company’s radar too late. Ideally, on day one, the process of developing invaluable relationships with influencers and reporters should begin. PR is an investment for the long run, and should be a part of every startup’s business plan. Here’s what you need:
A Strong Story
The groundwork of your PR strategy is your story. This is your chance to sit down and decide what your company really stands for. Take this as your opportunity to clearly define your goals and values, and ‘write’ your story.
You should first answer questions like “what do I really offer?” and “why should someone buy my product over the competition?” Before you can do anything else, you have to be conscious of what it is that makes you unique. If you can’t define your unique selling proposition, how can you convince others that there is one?
When people think Public Relations, they often think crisis control. While developing your story is proactive, the “emergency exit” is the reactive side of PR, and is a vital aspect of your toolkit. As a founder, you obviously hope for the best, but you should always prepare for the worst.
When running a story, you want to be ready for feedback of all types. Anything could happen. It could be a data leak, a death within the company, or a product malfunction. You always want to have an exit strategy ready for situations that create media buzz. You should be prepared to shine a positive light on your business at any instance. Take the time to think of the answers you will give for tough questions you may get asked.
At the same time, you want also avoid potential issues by monitoring. Keep an eye on your industry and see how people are reacting to the things you are saying. Even if this means just monitoring social media impressions. There are plenty of useful online tools out there that are designed specifically for this purpose. This will give you the upper hand and give you an idea if the messages you are sharing are being received as intended.
Building a Network
You should treat everyone who can help you like a partner, especially early on. You need to build a network with key people. Creating a solid network can be time consuming, but is an investment for the future that is necessary.
This doesn’t mean you have to have lunch with every reporter in the city, but make an effort to get to know people on a deeper level than just small talk. Building relationships with key influencers in your industry is huge. These people can help you get the exposure and credibility that an early-stage startup needs.They may come in the form of reporters, social media gurus, bloggers, radio or TV personalities; really anyone with a voice and an audience.
You can build these relationships with simple things like engaging with them on social media, through likes, shares, and direct messages to discuss their content with them.
You can also pitch them story ideas. When it comes to pitching a story, you’ll need something to offer than resonates with them and their audience. This is where your strong story comes into play. Once you get to know individual reporters and influencers, you can tailor your story to their needs at the time and explain how your story will benefit them. Eventually, this will evolve into a network advocates for your story, business and brand as a whole.
About the speaker: Shawn McIntyre
Shawn McIntyre is the owner of Entyre PR. He has spent the last 15 years working to build and maintain the reputation some of Canada’s biggest brands. Eleven years ago, Shawn joined the Kijiji team in Toronto, as one of their first hires. He helped Kijiji become one of Canada’s most recognizable and trusted brands. A former student of Saint Mary’s University, Shawn now helps SMEs and startups grow their brands and their images, using a great mix of traditional and digital methods. He is thrilled to be living in the Halifax area again with his young family, and works out of an office in flourishing Downtown Dartmouth.
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Also published on Medium.