"Get me coverage now!”

Startup office

I should have that printed on a t-shirt, I’ve heard it so many times. The startups I’ve met over the years, from those at ideation stage to those with more fully developed companies, all want the same thing - high quality media coverage, lots of it, as soon as humanly possible (usually about 6 days).

For many, PR and media attention can be a vital tool in brand building, customer acquisition, retention, hiring and investor relations, but does PR really add value at every stage of a startup's life-cycle, or are there times when it’s better to stay quiet?

A reason to speak

The first topic that we should cover here is knowing why you are engaging with the media in the first place. Is there something contextually happening in the public-eye that your product relates to? You might be doing something that has never been done before or maybe you are doing 'x' better than anyone else out there, but there must be a reason for you to approach the media - more than just to shout about your product and company. There has to be meaning and relevance to what you are saying. A few things to consider:

  • Use an events calendar. Is there an upcoming event or activity in the news that gives reason for you to make your presence known? An example from within Faber's portfolio is Chic By Choice, who synchronise PR activities with events like London Fashion Week - giving further authority to their message by including it with something in the public calendar.

  • Use your competition. Has your competition just published information on their product? Are you bold enough to contradict their claims and back it up with data? A previous client from my agency days who built datacentres and cloud infrastructure would constantly get media coverage every time Amazon/Apple/Google's cloud went down. They had the boldness, authority and data to make it work.

A subject to speak about

This topic is intricately woven to the previous, but knowing what you are going to talk about and twinning it with when to talk about it makes for a winning combination.

  • Everything starts with a story. It might sound cheesy, but it's true. Journalists don't care about your product, your MBA, your IP or your learning platform. They care about the story behind it all. What is the problem you are solving? Why are you the best team to deliver it? Perhaps you are a former city banker who is building a fintech solution to disrupt your former employer. 

  • Back it up. Once you have that story in place, you need to build the conversation around it. Use publicly available figures to endorse your point, or, if using a case study from within your ecosystem, make sure to include quotes and statistics on why your product has made that situation better.

A relevant audience

When planning PR activity, think about your goals and potential users when targeting media outreach. It is far better to reach an audience of ten if eight of them buy your product, than an audience of one-thousand with only one buyer.

“A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." - Wayne Gretzky

  • Predict the Puck. While the nationals might be the golden goose in your mind, if you have a marketing automation platform or B2B sales tool, the coverage generated from a piece in a national will likely drive traffic to your site, but result in low conversion rates. Place the same piece in a smaller title, and while traffic might be lower, user signups will likely be far higher as the audience you are speaking to understands your product and can apply it to their problems directly.

A business benefit

This last point is one that many (worryingly) forget about. Once you have your feature in a top tier publication, what's next? How are you making the most of that coverage and use it to achieve your business goals?

  • Credibility through recognition. One of the simplest ways to make use of media attention is to add links and logos in a prominent position on your website. This one small action can help convince a browser to become a buyer. Media brands are well recognised, and having a positive outside opinion on your product can help validate far more than anything you can say yourself.

  • Long-tail stretching. If an article performs well for you with regards to views and conversions, you should do your best to increase the time during which it is of use. While organic traction will last so long, you can extend that growth through paid media such as promoted posts or content advertising on Outbrain or Taboola. Paid content promotion has, in my experience, seen greater conversion than direct advertising sales, but you need to know your market and what will work best for you.

I hope you have found this useful and that the tips shared here can be of use to your startup. If you have any questions about anything mentioned here - feel free to contact me on Twitter - I'm @clevercode