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It’s a happy place for startup founders: you’ve hired promising people, built a slick product and even secured some investment. Now you’re thinking about how to get the word out there, generate excitement and convert loyal customers to your cause.
At the Tech North Founders’ Network Summit, Lizzie Wood and Nikki Scrivener from Manchester-based Fourth Day PR lent some advice on how to get started. From communicating your startup’s values to researching journalists’ preferences, here are six public relations tips from the tech-focused agency.
Your startup’s message should be tailored to attract who it is that you’re looking to reach.
“Different audiences fall for different messages, so sending out a mass message to everyone isn’t the way to approach PR,” Lizzie says. “Here, it pays to identify your various audiences and find out where to find them, how to influence them, and finally how to reach them.”
By creating ‘personas’ – personal profiles of typical members of audiences that state their preferences – startups can decide which platforms and publications to target with their message.
A persona for a productivity app startup’s typical user, for example, will be different from a persona for a marketing director of a large tech conference. The former might use Twitter and read LifeHacker, whereas the latter may prefer LinkedIn and read Conference News.
Once a startup has identified its target audiences and created associated personas, it can ask the question of they would care about what it does.
Here, Lizzie says that the key for startups is to position themselves as the solution a problem. For example, a startup could talk about how its new B2B product could reduce a company’s downtime when moving to a particular IT system.
“You need proof points as to why a future customer would pick you – something that could be demonstrated through a customer case study where you’re joined by a customer who explains how your product helped them,” says Lizzie. “Alternatively, it could be something around the expertise of your team.”
While getting into the Guardian would send most founders’ pulses racing, it pays for a startup to target relevant publications, in addition to the best known ones, when sending out press releases.
“Obviously the Guardian is amazing, but if you’re an Edtech platform, is that newspaper being read by your core audience – such as headteachers at schools?” asks Lizzie. “They may be more likely to be reading a newsletter circulated by an educational trade body.”
Targeting smaller publications can lead to larger ones paying attention down the line.
“Getting into the Guardian is a long process – it’ll take you a while to open those doors to convince the right editor that you need to be in there,” Lizzie adds. “If you start locally then spread wider to trade press, the noise may escalate, so when you’re ready to go to the Guardian they’ll Google you, see a few articles and see that you’re worth taking seriously.”
Journalists can receive up to hundreds of press releases a day, so your message needs to be considered and concise. Lizzie notes that it’s well worth thinking about what can be offered to journalists before you approach them.
“Spending just three minutes checking a journalist’s background is worthwhile,” notes Lizzie. “Do they want to be involved formally? Some only want them to be approached on Twitter or email. Beforehand, figure out what you can offer in an interview, and what you can talk about, as that helps you stand out from the crowd.”
When emailing, Lizzie recommends the ‘five bullet-points’ approach: “Given that journalists may be reading up to 200 pitches a day, it helps to put your point across in between three and five bullet points, keeping your message concise.”
Journalists often want to cut out the noise that comes with PR, and as such many prefer to talk to startup founders directly. On Twitter, founders can check the #journorequests hashtag, which is posted by journalists who are looking for interviewees.
“Introducing yourself to journalists posting the #journorequests hashtag is a really nice way of building a relationship directly,” says Lizzie. “That’s especially the case with regional outlets which sometimes look for guests to speak at events such as breakfast panels, networking events and conferences – it’s a good way of getting your foot in the door.”
Nikki encourages startups to think about reactive PR (commenting on what’s happened elsewhere), in addition to proactive PR (putting yourself out there).
“An example of proactive PR would be putting your point across about something you’ve seen in, say, The Independent,” she says. “You could write a follow-up piece on your own website, or comment on articles published online, slipping something in there about your own company.
“Don’t think that the story is dead just because somebody has written about it – but it’s important to offer your own perspective at the same time.”
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