Over the last three years, I have had to opportunity to speak and mentor startups at major accelerators in the U.S., Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. In doing so, I began to see a pattern evolve where the idea of doing what is typically thought of as “PR” tended to be something that may or may not be addressed until few weeks before launch, if ever.
I am of the belief that PR should be part of your development and marketing strategy. Don’t confuse PR with your message, gaining traction, growth hacking, crushing it, killing it, being awesome and every other term du jur that litters the startup landscape.
It’s about an approach I call “Above The Code” which helps you enter a zone that’s away from everything that is coded, measured, and quantified. It’s about listening, being human, and getting in tune where you believe your story could and should be told.
Early on, PR is not about getting coverage. It’s about finding your voice, understanding what the world at-large is writing about and trends being covered, and where your startup could belong in the conversation.
When To Start.
Approximately six months before you are ready to launch your startup’s first product, service or platform, Public Relations should be part of your strategic planning and branding.
The idea here is not to seek out media coverage. You’re too early in the cycle for it and even if you were to gain coverage, you may not have anything to really offer your customers and partners to be.
Ready. Set. Go!
There are five key steps you can take to help you get ready and set the stage of PR.
More than just being part of the bucket list of things your marketing team should be managing, PR should be a team effort, not in the vein of getting ink, but learning to build a cohesive story, a collective voice and elements of soul that will let you connect with your customers, partners and communities to be, as well as being discovered and in many cases, a source of expertise to the media.
1. Make A Wish List
Part of having a startup is first about dreaming about what could be and then executing on your vision.
The same applies in PR.
Come up with a vision of the story you would like to see, and where you think you belong.
Dream big and make a list of the top 20 media outlets and blogs where you think you belong, and why.
Pay attention to the why.
While it’s nice to think you should be in “The Wall Street Journal,” “Forbes,” or “The New York Times,” you might equally be well served to be covered in niche blogs. Many journalists in mainstream media will research niche blogs to discover content and startups that could lead to be part of a broader story they are working on.
2. Tune In
Borrowing a phrase from my friend, Chris Brogan, tuning in is really about what he calls growing bigger ears.
Get your team to methodically follow and read the content of the journalists and bloggers you want to reach out to. You’ll be far more in tune, more educated and you’ll understand what they write about. Doing so will give you a better sense for their voice, editorial fabric and what they tend to cover.
3. Leave a Trail of Digital Breadcrumbs
About thirty days before your launch, look for opportunities to leave non-commercial, insightful comments on news media sites and blogs relevant to your space. Share insights on what you are learning about your market, trends you are seeing from early customers, or observations from attending a workshop, conference or industry event.
Dress them up with original photos on your Instagram, Flickr, Facebook or Google+ feeds. Think about the image you are projecting when you do this and in both your business and personal life.
4. Build Out Body of Work
Start on, but don’t go live with, your startup’s blog.
Your mileage will vary on this approach, but you should start writing, building content, and having a body of work that demonstrates your startup’s expertise in what you do and your purpose for being. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your startup’s humanity. Make the key founders of the startup contributors to the company blog and identify them by name and title.
This is also a way to build company culture, and as a means to find a unified, online voice that will help define your brand.
5. Tap into Low Cost and Free Tools You Can Use
I’m a big fan of MuckRack andTwtrland for discovery and research. MuckRack will run you $100 per month and Twitrland is free. MuckRack lets you track who’s writing what in real time, searchable with keywords, hashtags, social profiles and much more. Twtrland lets you go a bit broader to include thought leaders and potential contributors to your community.
Time To Rise
The global startup economy is on the rise, with thousands of companies all vying for attention and mindshare.
Developing strategies and practical approaches early into the cycle of your startup’s launch will help you and your team Rise Above The Code.