The tools of PR for startups out there in the marketplace are many and varied and it can be hard to know what’s essential and what’s a distraction.
In this blog, we’ll look at the ten most important tools of PR for startups in the tech space looking to build their business by getting press visibility.
None of them have to be expensive.
Even if you’ve secured your Series A funding, you should think twice about paying a pricey PR agency thousands a month on retainer to take your public relations problem out of your hands.
You’re a tech founder with an exciting startup.
Who in the world is more invested in your service and your business than you?
What agency can speak more authentically about your startup than you?
Sure — you have a thousand and one important things to focus on. Growing your business is surely one of them. And for startups, PR is a fantastic way of growing interest, demand and revenue by creating a buzz around what you’re doing👍.
The Top Ten Tools of PR for Startups
If you know the ingredients of successful startup PR, you’re well on the way to achieving it. To win at this game, you’ll need:
- A Great Story to Tell
- A Plan to Get It Out There
- A Targeted List of Publications
- A Targeted List of Journalists
- A Media Kit
- A High-Quality Website and Social Media Footprint
- Sparkling, Structured Writing
- The Know-How to Place Stories
- Press Release Distribution
- Media Monitoring
Now, let’s look at each one of these tools in turn.
Tools of PR for Startups #1: A Great Story to Tell
Ok, ok… Maybe this one isn’t a “tool” as such. But it’s the most important thing in your PR campaign. It’s the raw material. Try to build an aircraft out of lead and it’ll never fly.
Try to build a PR campaign without a story that will catch journalists’ eyes and make them excited about your startup and all the tools and hard work in the world will never make it fly!
Three things are unique about your tech startup. They will be at the heart of a great story:
- Your product — it does something new or does something in a new way
- Your business — ditto!
- You, the founder — your story and how you ended up here
- Timing — There needs to be a reason to bring your story to an audience now. That might be because you’re launching a product now, but can you tie it in with other trends and events that will make your launch resonate with a wider audience?
- Significance — Why should the public care? How does your news affect them? If you can tell the journalists why your story matters to their readers, they’ll pay more attention.
- Proximity — If your startup story is tied to a particular city or place, think about how it affects that location.
- Prominence — If you’re famous, what you have to say is more likely to get listened to. If not, it’s a harder sell.
- Human Interest — Emotion, triumph, tragedy, comedy… All these things can give the X-factor that turns yet another business story into gold.
So, don’t start your PR campaign until you’ve got a great story to tell or you’ll be wasting your time.
Tools of PR for Startups #2: A Plan to Get It Out There
What does “good publicity” look like to you? What are you aiming to achieve with your PR efforts? Before you begin, you need to decide:
- What your goals are — WHO you want to say WHAT about you and WHERE
- What your budget is — how much time and money you will dedicate to that
- How success will be measured — clarity on evaluating the results
Then you must decide what PR activity will accomplish that. A press release sent out to a wide pool of journalists? Or an exclusive directed to a contact you’ve been cultivating for a long time? An interview? A product demonstration? A white paper?
How will you follow contacts up? Do you have a response plan in place if your story goes viral or if it backfires and the coverage ends up negative? Are you ready to engage with readers on social media?
There are plenty of examples of successful “guerrilla PR” campaigns when a clever stunt — publicized in advance to the right people — has caused a stir that a press release alone could never achieve.
Tools of PR for Startups #3: A Targeted List of Publications
You’ve got to know the publications and blogs that your target audience reads. If your startup is in Fintech, there’s no point sending your press release to a gaming site.
An essential tool for your startup PR activity is a comprehensive, tiered list of all the publications that you would like to be covered in — from the global tech press down to really niche individual blogs.
You shouldn’t limit your outreach to the big publishers only or to a selected few.
News Desks are bombarded with hundreds of pitches for stories every week. They won’t even read most of them.
And even if they do, your story just not make the cut compared to everything else they’ve been offered. Or it might not work around their deadlines for copy.
Your chances of a press release being picked up from cold outreach to any given publication are slim, even when it tells a great story 😢. So, maximize your chances by widening your reach.
There are lots of services out there providing databases of publications and their contact details, categorized by interest and coverage areas.
Some are very expensive because they come with fully-integrated suites of monitoring tools or because they boast global coverage.
Other, niche providers like Pressfarm can be much more reasonably-priced because they focus solely on the technology sector and don’t force you to pay for all the extras.
Tools of PR for Startups #4: A Targeted List of Journalists
If you’re sending your press releases to generic publication inboxes, there’s a chance that a news editor or a commissioning editor will read it and love it enough to assign it 😐. But if you can target a particular journalist who is passionate about your sector, knows it and understands it, and you can get them excited about the story you have to tell, your chances are much better. And you’ll be making valuable contacts you can come back to in the future.
So, just as you need a list of target publications, you need a list of target journalists, bloggers, and influencers.
TOP TIP: Don’t forget, some of the top writers in tech are freelance. They’re not on the staff of any particular publication but take their stories around from outlet to outlet.
Freelance journalists are always on the lookout for something new and unusual to pitch to editors!
Journalists have their own areas of specialism or “beat”. You need to find out what these are so as to pinpoint the best people to reach out to.
Names and contact lists can often be found on publications’ websites, but collecting enough to get a few hits with your outreach is very time-consuming. And just because someone has one article bylined to them doesn’t mean that’s their usual beat or a topic they’re interested in.
You can save yourself a lot of time and rejections by investing in a database of journalists, bloggers, and influencers that allows you to drill down into their specific specialties and target them on an individual level👍.
Pressfarm’s journalist database has up-to-date contact and biographical details for more than 50,000 working journalists.
Tools of PR for Startups #5: A Media Kit
Even before you have a great story to tell and a plan to let the world know about it, you can put together a media kit so that you’re ready for when journalists do turn up on your doorstep.
A media kit is a preprepared set of assets for journalists to use when featuring your company or product.
It saves them time and effort in putting together their articles, and it ensures you have some control over how you appear. It should include:
- High-resolution vector images of your logos and company name, suitable for print and online use
- Bespoke photographs of yourself and other key people who may be featured in the copy
- Background information on your services, history, finances, etc
- Contact details for press
- Testimonials, free samples or trial log-ins
- Anything else that will be useful for the journalist covering your startup or that will make it more memorable
You can attach this to your media releases when you distribute them, or you can host them on your website in a Pressroom area for download👍. Media kits are relatively simple to create: services like Canva have loads of templates for a low price.
Tools of PR for Startups #6: A High-Quality Website and Social Media Footprint
When a journalist who has never heard of you before reads your press release, the first thing they’re going to do is look your business up online and on the big social media platforms 👀. If they make a bad impression, you could miss your opportunity to win coverage. So:
- Make sure your website looks professional and is up to date
- Blog regularly to show your expertise
- Engage with your social media followers — don’t just use it as a broadcast channel
Business reputations can be won and lost on social media by how you respond to complaints, problems, and criticism.
What seems funny to you can turn into a PR nightmare when an ill-disposed journalist comes across it.
So remember to ensure that your entire online presence is consistent with your brand image before you start reaching out — or else the story that gets into the press could be different from the one you intended! 😱
Tools of PR for Startups #7: Sparkling, Structured Writing
Journalists write for a living. If your press release is badly-written or boring or cliched they will hate it. They might even make fun of it. Journalists are also very busy. Or maybe they’re lazy?
Whatever. They want the content you supply them with to be well-written and clearly structured so that the lead is obvious, the relevance is apparent and there is enough material available to craft something interesting.
The easier you make it for your release to be incorporated into a journalist’s copy, the more likely they are to use it.
- Pick a headline and email subject that grab the attention
- Write an opening paragraph that effectively explains what the story is
- Provide quotations from key people
- Provide stats and numbers
- Be witty, clear and above all concise
It’s worth spending some money on professional press release writing services like those offered by Pressfarm to get the tone just right.
Tools of PR for Startups #8: The Know-How to Place Stories
This is a big part of what you’re paying for when you sign up with a PR agency: the knowledge of what journalists look for, how to give it to them, how to find the right people and — sometimes but not always — the relationships that will get those people to pick up the phone and listen to a pitch. But you can build your own relationships with journalists, bloggers, and influencers once you’ve found them using the PR tools we’ve discussed here:
- Network with them at events
- Share information and tips, even if there’s nothing in it directly for you
- Engage with them on social media and comment on their posts
TOP TIP: journalists and bloggers on lower tiers of the media pyramid are always looking to get coverage in the bigger outlets.
They can be invaluable agents for you in getting noticed by the big players through their own promotional work.
And of course, it’s always good to make friends with people on the way up! If you do decide you want to outsource this work, here at Pressfarm we can advise on and manage getting coverage for you.
Tools of PR for Startups #9: Press Release Distribution
As well as reaching out to selected publications and individuals, you may want to use press release distribution services to increase the reach of your campaigns. Your release will be categorized by topic and pushed to all potentially-interested media that subscribe. There are many wire services to choose from: some, like PRWeb and BusinessWire are global and comprehensive in their coverage; others are far more niche.
It’s important to choose the right distributors for your news because these services vary widely in price and reach.
Tools of PR for Startups #10: Media Monitoring
Finally, you need tools to keep an eye on when and where you’re getting coverage so that you know if your campaign has worked! This can be as simple as setting up Google Alerts for your company and product names, or highly sophisticated and expensive, with tools that measure sentiment and reach as well as mentions. Again, you need to pick the right tools to fit your budget and your objectives👍.