For any business to grow and succeed, it must gain the attention of the consumers. One of the most prominent avenues that must be catered to is the mainstream media services. Large companies have discovered the importance of mainstream media reporting, and that is why they invest in public relations services. The mainstream media creates an image that will stick with the business throughout its cycle. The image created will define how the public views the business. A second reason why startups need to succeed in PR is that it is a powerful marketing tool. It provides them with access to a very important communication platform at a relatively low cost.
Startups have a disadvantage in getting the attention of the press. Budgetary limitations coupled with weak relationships with the media fraternity make it difficult to get much coverage. Furthermore, in all likelihood the startup has a very small number of employees who must juggle between projects they are undertaking. The result is that media attention is shunted to the periphery and handled as the need arises.
Growth for a startup is pegged to visibility. This means the startup must find ways of attracting positive press attention in order to grow their consumer base. Here are the fundamentals a startup must adhere to for success:-
1. Journalist’s coverage determines your audience
What is the demographic of the audience? Which publication do you intend to use? These questions are answered by the nature of your startup; your product/service line determines which segment of the population is likely to be interested. Having determined the answer to these questions, you can identify the journalists you should target.
Once you have the journalists in mind, you can now learn about them and their coverage. Understanding their coverage enables you to convey a story they are likely to be interested in covering. The pitch you present them with must reflect this. When reflecting the journalist’s area of coverage, avoid clichés that make them feel used such as ‘I saw your article on ABC…’ you should also go through the official channels and avoid direct pitches. This is because official channels are monitored constantly and pitches sorted for relevance and interest before being assigned to journalists. By focusing on certain publications that focus on your startup’s industry, you increase your chances of success.
2. Attracting audience attention is pegged on their interests
Attracting attention is about understanding what constitutes news. There are certain events within the startup structure that provide newsworthy fodder. If you lack something that can be considered newsworthy when trying to attract the attention, you will ultimately end up failing. Focus on the nature of the media you are targeting to find out what they will consider publishable.
There are situations where if the startup is unique that would then be considered as newsworthy; for example, the launch of an engaging study, the release of a unique product, the launch of the company, and the release of a product that is new to the market. Once you have this angle covered, focus on creating information that should be disseminated in the publication effectively.
3. Your value proposition must be encapsulated in a single statement
Before you can embark on the process of seeking media coverage, you must define your message. It should be defined in a simple and easy to understand the single sentence message. The idea is to communicate to the reader what you are providing in a single sentence. Avoid specialized terms that may not be understood by a layman.
This will help you to craft a description of the company. From this, you can now create a message that will be the foundation of your media pitch. The pitch should have its main points discernible from the beginning. You have to remember that the journalists get approached by lots of startups on a daily basis. This means that your pitch may be one of hundreds or thousands they get in a day. The journalist will only skim a few sentences of the email, and this is where the bulk of your content has to lie.
The pitch you craft must stick to the identity you have defined in your statement. When creating the message, make sure that it is clear and straight to the point. The ideal message is one which explains to the journalist why the item is newsworthy and why their viewers are likely to care.
4. Tailor your pitch to the journalist while staying focused on your objectives
Creating a relationship needs personalized touch. This means you need to spend extra time crafting pitches that are customized to the journalist you want to cultivate a relationship with. Avoid using broadcast pitches as these are likely to be ignored. When you put a little effort and thought into the customization process, you will encourage the target to respond and open a line of communication.
5. Your pitch must have accompanying resources
The resources that the journalist will need in order to understand your pitch and its value must always be ready. It is not necessary that you send them when pitching but have them ready. This is so that you can immediately respond to journalist interest and inquiries. The resources that you need ready are photos, product or company descriptions, and other related items. While you do not need to include these in your original pitch, mention they are available on request. Have them ready for a quick response if needed.
6. Mistakes are costly and press releases ineffective
Mistakes in the pitching process can get you marked as spam and have you blacklisted for future reference. This means you must make an effort to avoid common mistakes while constructing the pitch and email. Some of the most common mistakes are the result of poor copy-pasting techniques. The trick is to double or triple check the customized parts for accuracy of the information they contain; such as the journalist name and the publication they are a part of and work for. Another common mistake takes us back to step 1 is the coverage area of the journalist. Journalists may step outside their coverage area on special occasions, but this has not effectively increased their area of interest.
Press releases, especially for smaller companies are marked as spam and useless. They are ignored because of their dubious reputation. This is because, in most cases, they are full of useless corporate speak and marketing jargon crafted by marketers and corporate reps. For this reason, they are largely ignored and, therefore, ineffective. Custom emails do not have this limitation, however.
7. Use the tools at your disposal
There are a number of tools used in public relations that you must understand; timing, exclusivity, and embargoes.
Remember that news pitches have their importance and relevance pegged at the time they are delivered. The pitch should be well timed for several reasons. First, it allows the journalist to do their research on the company. Second, when delivered in good time, it can boost the official publication of the same content. Third, it creates awareness momentum if done at the right time.
Exclusivity refers to providing a specific publication with sole rights to publishing certain information. This tool must be used carefully. It should only be used when a company has created a rapport with that publication. In addition, it is most effective when the publication promises to create awareness on the exclusivity of the information in order to boost visibility and interest.
An embargo is an official understanding that certain information will only be published publicly once a set of conditions is met. These conditions can be timing, interviews, or such other criteria. It can be especially useful in making sure that the information is published accurately.
8. Information contained in your pitch must be accurate and engaging
The information must have the required backups to prop up its credibility and distinguish it from marketing fluff. The best way to do so is to use data to prop up the information you need to publish. Make this information unique and engaging to the viewer. Where the data is truly captivating, optimize on this by pitching it separately. A side benefit of this is increased focus and attention on your startup.
9. Social media is an ally
Because the journalists you are targeting hardly know you, you must find a way of building a connection and rapport with them. Social media is a useful place to start. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are very useful as networking points of contact. Furthermore, they have verified accounts which help you to keep track of the journalists whom you need to interact with.
Social interaction in the physical space may be impossible due to time constraints, and because they may not know you at first. Follow your targeted journalists, add them as friends, and invite them into your circle. If possible get them to do the same for you; this will help you in building relevant connections. Then interact with them while closely monitoring their activity. This tells you of their interests, projects, and more.
When you share information through tweets and updates, you create an interaction between you and the journalist. This interaction can act as a good basis for future engagements on your startup. You can use the information gleaned from their activity to craft your pitches and communications. This guarantees a higher rate of success. There are lists of journalists available online that tell you who has a verified account and where. Verified accounts are the best option as they guarantee that you are interacting with the intended person.
10. Use relevant tools to engineer your pitches
There are tools like HARO and NewBasis which provide you with information on journalists, their interests, and current projects. Use these tools to make yourself an invaluable asset to the journalists. The most effective way of doing this is catering to their need for information, especially in the areas you are knowledgeable. It does not matter whether this is what you wanted to get out there; consider this as a means to an end. When you respond to their needs for information and sources, you build trust and credibility. This makes you a credible and relevant industry insider. That is, provided you give clear responses to requests from the journalists.