By Molly Borchers, Sr. Communications Strategist
Since the start of 2009, venture capital firms have deployed more than $31.5 billion across 3,308 deals into Silicon Valley-based tech startups. Here in San Diego, VCs invested more than $270 million in the first quarter of 2015 alone.
Startups are innovating at a fever pitch, but with so many new companies hitting the market, getting noticed can be a challenge. It’s hard to compete with the next Uber. There’s a lot of noise out there and attention spans are short. Also, journalists are increasingly being bombarded with pitches, making it hard to sort out the substance from the fluff.
That’s exactly why tech startups need good PR.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or genius programmer) to know that positive media coverage can introduce your company to new customers. But it also enhances your credibility, making investors more confident in the promise of your product or service.
That’s why at (W)right On, we always advise tech startups to invest in PR before anything else. But many times, especially with new, early stage tech startups, there isn’t an outlined budget for marketing. Or, the startup founders are too busy to dedicate the time and resources toward a successful PR program.
You don’t have to be as grandiose as Steve Jobs and captivate the world at MacWorld to get media coverage, but a successful launch or program does require creativity. Here are a few best practices that we’ve learned over the years for getting PR for your startup:
A splashy launch is worth its weight in gold:
Your product is out of beta, the bugs are worked out, and you’ve nailed your messaging, value proposition and competitive differentiation. Now it’s time to let the world know you exist! The old adage, “if you build it, they will come” no longer applies. No offense to Kevin Costner and “Field of Dreams,” but it just doesn’t work that way anymore.
We recommend that tech startups hire a PR firm to develop a killer launch strategy to get in the media and in front of customers. Yes, it is an investment, but it’s one that will pay for itself if done correctly.
Depending on the startup and their customers, we’ve done everything from influencer targeting, giveaways, press conferences (in-person and digital), launch parties, desksides (one-on-one meetings with journalists) and more.
It takes creativity to get noticed:
Say you’ve already launched. Maybe the company has been around for a year or more. Things are going well, but you could stand to get more buzz. The most important thing we tell our clients is that an old product won’t continue to get press unless the company does something creative to earn it. Tech journalists tend to cover:
- Company launches
- New products/product launches
- Helpful infographics
- Important partnerships
- Case studies
- News coming from top companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc.
If you don’t have any “news,” case studies or product launches in the queue, then you’re going to need to get creative to get attention. Often for clients who have this dilemma, we’ll develop a thought leadership campaign where we’ll draft a series of topical articles and shop them to various magazines and blogs in the target market. Or, we’ll design an infographic, develop a creative stunt or commission a survey to earn media attention.
Form relationships with media contacts:
Your PR firm has scored you a media interview. At first you think, “awesome, this is going to be great!” Then, the next thought might be, “oh sh*t, I hope I don’t screw this up.”
First, we always encourage that our tech startup spokespeople get media training if they’re not already experienced in that area. This gives said spokespeople the confidence to know they are not going to look like a complete wanker to the journalist.
Next, remember that every media interview is an opportunity to form a relationship with someone new. You’re not simply adding that journalist to your Rolodex, but potentially meeting someone who could become an advocate for your company. When you form genuine relationships with the media, they will often look to you as a source for stories (yay, more press!) and perhaps they’ll be more benevolent (within the limits of their job) if crisis strikes.
So keep in touch with the journalist. Comment on their articles. Follow and RT them on Twitter. Send them articles you think they might want to read, or email feedback about the things they write themselves. Be open and transparent (not defensive) during the interview process. Take them out to lunch or drinks with your PR rep on a quarterly basis to learn more about what they’re working on.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but we’ve seen firsthand how good PR can help tech startups standout from the competition, get in front of new customers and impress investors.
Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!
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