PR can seem like a bit of a minefield when you’re starting out. How do you know who to approach? Where do you start with a pitch?
No matter how confusing it may seem, it’s an area which you mustn’t ignore as good PR can actually be more valuable than advertising. It can also be a key component of advertising channels such as search engine optimisation and social media.
Bill Gates once famously said “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR” and as founder of one of the most successful companies in the world, I don’t know about you but I take his word for it!
Now, like many start-ups, you may not have the luxury of being able to hire a PR company to build that comprehensive strategy from the get go.
This may be something that you need to get stuck into yourself, so if this is the case, the following pointers should help give you a head start...
First off, it’s important to get a good understanding of the press and how it operates.
This is crucial if you want to be noticed. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking it’s ok to blanket send your pitch to as many journalists as possible.
They are busy professionals and can spot this kind of email a mile off.
It’s important to know who to approach with your pitch, as each individual writer will have their own area of expertise. If you contact random journalists, you’ll just become another email in a sea of pitches all clamouring for attention.
Put simply, you won’t get noticed. If you’re a new tech start up, spend some time researching journalists and bloggers in this industry. They are the people interested in your area and will therefore be most likely to pay you some attention.
Another common error is sending a pitch to the top journalists and editors of said publication. This isn’t to say that your story won’t be of interest to them, they are just extremely busy and probably receive thousands of daily requests. Instead, target the newer journalists and writers who are hungry for stories.
Chances are, they will have the time to read through your pitch, giving you the best chance of getting some decent coverage.
It’s understandable that you’ll want to aim for the top and scootch your way straight into Forbes (if that’s your audience). But hold fire - there’s no harm whatsoever in starting small.
Contact your local newspaper and make headway there first. Get to know the reporters and build up relationships - which could become useful in the future.
Once you’ve had coverage - even at a local level - it will give you the confidence and backing you need to approach the larger publications.
Before approaching anyone, make sure you have your story and facts right. Yes it’s your business - you know it inside out, but you need to be able to articulate this in a digestible way to the press.
You might be quite emotionally attached to your company (understandably) and want to rave about it in the exciting way you see it.
However, journalists don’t have the time to sift through lengthy emails about how and why you’re the best thing since sliced bread.
They want the facts and figures.
Do you have the numbers to support your claims? The consumer research that says, yes you are in fact the best new thing to come into this industry?
Get these facts straight and you’ll be in a great place for when you come to contact those hand picked journalists.
This is important if you want to get a journalist’s attention.
The pitch isn’t all about you - nobody wants to be bombarded with 20 reasons on why they should write about your startup.
Think about what’s in it for the journalist; why do they want to choose to read your email in an already crowded inbox?
Why will your article generate interest and drive traffic to their page?
Be upfront and tell the journalist what you would like them to do with your pitch. Don’t skirt around the topic as they don’t have time for that - get to the point.
A concise introductory email, showing interest in them and how they can help you will go down far better than a lengthy essay on your company’s strengths.
You’ve got a brand new revolutionary lipstick that you want to really shout about. So where do you go? Think about the people who you want to attract with your story. What are they reading?
This is a key part of any PR strategy as getting your audience right is is what makes the process worthwhile.
Sit down and make a list of all the sector specific publications you can think of, you’re already invested in this industry so, chances are, you know a few off the top of your head.
Getting a good story in any of those publications could prove far more valuable than any advertising you have planned.
Cracking social media with your story can be a real benefit. Online mentions can really help to boost your SEO efforts, so having people talking about and sharing your story can prove extremely valuable.
When people react to the article, talk to them. Get involved with conversations - good or bad. This will help generate traction around that story and hopefully result in more online activity around the content.
Another way of making the article go further is to include sharing links on the story.
If you are uploading it to your website then provide the means for people to share it quickly and easily on social media. This is a way of organically spreading the word and as most (if not all) journalists are active twitter users, this will help your chances of being picked up for another publication.
Twitter is a great tool for this and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Most writers and journalists use twitter to research stories, publish their own work and build relationships. A key tip here is to look up writers that are active in your industry.
They are the people most likely to want to write about your company and are therefore the ones to build relationships with.
Now this isn’t to say that you should spam their inbox with pitches - that really isn’t going to get you anywhere.
What you need to do is start reading their work and familiarise yourself with what makes them tick.
Complement an article that you enjoyed and start interacting that way. This is far more authentic than just contacting them cold with very little understanding on what they actually do and asking them to write about you.
As your company expands, this could be a really useful tool. It may seem right now that you can openly talk to anyone about your business and give them facts and figures off the top of your head.
However, as your company grows, you’ll need this to be consistent.
You may no longer be the person sending out pitches so start getting together some useful items that will make this process simple.
Write a set ‘about us’ (or boiler plate) ready to be sent out with your pitches and press releases.
This should be a succinct overview of your company and what you do for writers to refer to.
As you build your press contacts, keep a list together for anything you send out in future. They should be contacts that you have a good relationship with (and not that endless list we spoke about in point one - keep this as personal as you can).
This is a useful place to keep any other fact sheets, images or infographics that may support your story. Start as you mean to go on and the process will be seamless.
What is it?
We use a free service called Help A Reporter Out (HARO) which emails journalist requests to your inbox 3 times per day.
All you have to do is reply to the ones that are relevant to you and, if your answer is good, you'll be featured.
This is a great way to build credibility for your brand, position you as a thought leader and, because they usually link back to your website, it's a great way to improve the authority of your website (one of the key ways that Google chooses how to rank websites, meaning it's an excellent way to bring in more organic traffic).
Don’t be daunted by PR. No matter how new to this you are, you will be able to get your head around it and start building those useful contacts up in no time. Think about it - if you have an interesting story to tell, people will want to