Boston has a national reputation as a hub for start-up companies. Boston’s vast resources and highly-educated workforce make start-ups a huge part of what keeps Boston growing and flourishing.
By their very nature, start-ups are often short on personnel, time, and money in their formative days (and even years). Planning and executing a public relations campaign is a daunting and seemingly expensive endeavor.
But fear not, start-ups. While you may not be able to achieve the national coverage that a seasoned publicist would garner, there are steps that you can take to create a presence in the media and get a head start on your overall public relations goals. Here are some tips on how to hit the ground running.
1. Make Sure You’re Prepared for the Attention
Before you throw your fledgling company into the deep end, make sure you are ready for the attention.
First, put yourself in the position of the media – if they search for your company online, what will they find? Can your company be found at all? Are your pages optimized for search engines? If you suddenly get an influx of traffic from media coverage, can your site handle it?
Once someone finds your site, is it functional, easy to navigate, and visually appealing? Would you want to buy what your company is selling online? The same with social media platforms – make sure your site is visually appealing and the branding is consistent.
2. Build Your PR Toolkit
Think ahead and work to create and compile all the necessary information you might need to share with the media about your company, product, or team. This process should include:
• Writing a branded backgrounder with historical information about your company (see step 5).
• Crafting complete biographies of key executives.
• Creating/commissioning high resolution photos of products and executives and high resolution logos to share – it’s a lot easier to have these prepared and ready to go than scrambling on a deadline.
3. Know Your Market
When you work for a start-up, you often have to be a jack-of-all-trades. At a moment’s notice, you may become the spokesperson or publicist for your company. With that in mind, it is a smart idea to stay abreast of local business and global industry news. Staying informed about the latest trends in your industry helps to position you and your company at the top of your game. It is also important to know what your competition is doing in order to react and adjust your offerings/messaging to fit the needs of your audience/the media.
4. Find Partners
Finding a mutually beneficial partner who is already established with the media might offer a great opportunity to meet/connect with media and/or gain coverage. Finding a partner whose product/customers complement your own rather than one you compete with is key.
Once you find a partner, plan an event. Guest post on their blog and have them guest post on yours. Think of ways that you can work together to maximize impressions and help one another by exposing them to your audience and pooling resources.
5. Craft Your Story
Beyond a simple backgrounder, you will need to create a storyline about your start-up to build your pitches around. What’s the angle? Why is your company interesting? What is most newsworthy and unique about your company/product? Spend some time putting pen to paper and create language around this storyline that can be tailored for future pitching.
6. Research and Pitching Media
It is incredibly important to know who you’re pitching to and tailor (not change) your pitch to fit their audience. Many journalists today are on Twitter, which is a great way to monitor the types of stories they are interested in writing now. You may even find an opportunity to create a dialogue using social media, so don’t discount it. A thoughtful story pitch at the right time can be the beginning of a strong relationship with a member of the media.
Keep your pitch short and simple when reaching out to a journalist or blogger, and provide links and photos where applicable. By making their life easier, you may just get yourself an “in.”
7. Maintain Relationships with Media
Spend time communicating directly with the (local, relevant industry) media outlets you want to cover you and using that time to develop a direct relationship. Relationships are key to a successful public relations campaign. Make sure to respond to inquiries and deadlines in a timely manner – if a journalist knows that they can count on you, they are more likely to reach out to you when they have a story that fits your start-up in the future.
Obviously, these seven steps can’t guarantee coverage for your start-up. It takes patience, persistence, and maintenance to craft a truly successful public relations campaign. Use these tips to give your company the foundation it needs to succeed!
AJ Gerritson is a Founding Partner at 451 Marketing, a national award-wining communications agency that focuses on integrating public relations, social media, and search engine marketing campaigns for mid to large-sized companies. AJ serves as President and Board Member for the Boston Irish Business Association, an organization he co-founded.
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