It is estimated that currently there are easily over 20 million startups in the United States. More and more people are fulfilling their dreams to bring their products and/or services to market and embark on their “yellow brick startup road.” In addition, between 25 and 40 of the startups currently out there are worth billions. With all of this promising business startup growth and valuation it ultimately means that the competition to get noticed and propelled by the media becomes more and more competitive.
For startups seeking to create brand recognition and acquire media coverage, what does this all mean? Honestly, in the beginning it can feel difficult. It’s always a challenge to cut through the cacophony of competition in order to establish a brand and at the same time bring the media on board to pay attention to a new company. With that said, there are definitive strategies that can be executed in order to establish yourself as a startup not to be ignored.
The following are some strategies to keep in mind and actively employ before embarking on a full press public relations campaign.
1. Are you ready? Your first priority is that you need to be prepared. If your product is simply not the best that it can be at the time of embarking on a PR campaign, you can probably count on not getting any good product reviews. No reporter will be willing to cover your company and product, and you will most likely experience backlash and negative press. Please believe that there is certainly such a thing as bad press. So, make sure you are entirely ready before putting in place any PR strategies.
2. Is your identity established? It’s absolutely vital to know what your company stands for and how it all operates prior to telling the world who you. Be sure you’re able to answer that question when it’s asked. When establishing your business identity, keep in mind the following: What makes us stand out from our competitors? Do we have a product/service that no one else has and is unique to the market? What are our core values as a company? What exactly is our company culture? It’s important to have definitive answers to these questions and be sure to ingratiate your company’s identity, values, and culture in every aspect of your startup. If you’re not sure about the answers then it’s time to ask those around you to give you their perspective of your company. Be sure to notate the outside responses that you receive and ascertain which answers are the same. If the responses greatly vary then there is an issue with the perception of the company. Be sure to identify the varying responses and work to fix the variances in order to keep the perspectives more similar before telling your story. You want your company identity to be fluid and cohesive.
3. Is there a story to tell? Does your company offer an interesting back story? A “hook” or company story is an integral part of any successful PR campaign. Once you’ve clearly established your company’s identity, then it’s time to create a narrative, or your startup’s story. You certainly want to appear unique and stand out amongst the press, your investors, and your target consumer demographic. In order to successfully do all that you must have a great story to share about who you are and how you got started. This story will work twofold as it will not only help you connect to your audience, but it will also make it difficult to be forgotten. Be sure to integrate this narrative in social media, in your messaging, during interviews, and any other opportunity to talk about your startup. In addition, be sure to use your company name in each narrative. Always remember that your company’s story and every aspect of the narrative are sound bytes for the media.
4. Make sure there is CEO visibility. The CEO/Founder/Principal of your company plays an instrumental role in shaping the company’s image. It is imperative that she/he needs to be visible and accessible to the public. This means they must have a presence on many levels; within the social media arena, a positive relationship with the press, and the ability to flawlessly speak about the company’s story and identity. This visibility will ultimately create a stronger sense of credibility and authority in your industry. In addition, it will also get them in front of key individuals and help to expand the business.
5. Don’t ignore social media. It’s time consuming and takes a great deal of hard work to successfully establish your brand and stay above the melee. That’s why it’s so essential not to forget the importance of creating a social media presence and strategy that represents the company’s brand, values, and culture. Actually, before embarking on any PR campaign you’ll need to create an appealing social media plan from the very beginning in order to actively grow your presence. Social media will establish your identity and credibility in your industry, be a platform to share your story, and position your CEO as a thought leader and pioneer. Just remember that any successful social media execution takes a dedication of time in order to engage directly with your followers, answer questions, and share pertinent information about your company.
6. Need help? Then it’s time to hire. Launching a startup is difficult and implementing strong PR strategies when you are just getting your feet off the ground can be challenging. Always remember that you don’t have to do it alone, and you can hire a professional. That said you need to make sure they are a great match for your business and are excited about your plans. A good PR firm will help you establish a strong identity, effectively communicate your story to a targeted press arena, create thought leadership opportunities for your CEO, and establish an engaging social media program. They will build your brand, help you stand out, increase your visibility, get you in front of decision makers as well as your core audience.