Smart PR for Bootstrapped Startups
Bite-sized advice to build long-term media relationships and earn quality press
When an up-and-coming startup has the most delicious snack in town but no one knows about it, no one’s eating it. Full stop.
Startups often put crafting a good PR plan on the backburner because of lack of time, budget, people-power or know-how. Capturing attention from industry media to get your name out there requires a thorough and thoughtful approach, but it certainly pays back. Your company’s messaging, launch, and milestones all need a proper strategy. That may seem daunting, but it’s possible to execute a solid plan when you know what to focus on.
We tapped FoodBytes! PR experts Katherine Vanda & Melanie Rawlings to deliver their top media takeaways focused on WHAT & HOW for busy, multitasking startups.
Katherine Vanda is a freelance public relations consultant helping companies get their message across to the right people at the right outlets. She is the Global PR-lead for FoodBytes!
Melanie Rawlings runs a public relations and communications consultancy specializing in food, drink, hospitality and sustainability and is the UK and European PR-lead for FoodBytes!
INTRODUCE YOURSELF PROPERLY.
WHAT: Don’t keep your amazing work to yourself: introduce your company to the world! Brand awareness is vital to the long-term growth of your company.
HOW: Communicating every step and every day about your company is overwhelming and dilutes what you’re trying to promote. Instead, share specific milestones. Pitch enough information to attract your target audience and simultaneously entice them to learn more.
WHAT: Prepare yourself ahead of time for any Q&A. Preparation is critical and shows you are confident and knowledgeable. Be ready for critical feedback on your weaknesses.
HOW: Prepare great stories, examples and anecdotes about your business. Also prepare answers for difficult questions and comments that might arise. Be ready to talk about industry trends, issues, and how your product or service is a solution.
DEVELOP A CLEAR MESSAGE.
WHAT: Tailor your message and don’t say everything at once. What are the main points you want this publication to remember? Hit on those messages and make sure they are supported with evidence.
HOW: Don’t send the same message to everyone. Different targets have different interests and require different tones. Develop key messages for each. Create separate releases for trade, business and consumer press.
WHAT: Talk about benefits of your company or product, not just the technology or features.
HOW: Describe what your business is doing for consumers. Show the difference you make. Show how you are solving problems with a bold USP (unique selling point).
BE GENEROUS. FOLLOW UP.
WHAT: Be a generous resource when talking to reporters. If you don’t know something, get back to them later on. You won’t always know all the answers and it’s better for your credibility to give a strong answer, even if it’s after the interview.
HOW: Send information. Send samples. If media has given you time, respect that and follow up with any information you’ve promised.
BE GENUINE AND TRANSPARENT.
WHAT: Don’t be a robot – relax and be yourself – personality is a good thing!
HOW: Try not to repeat messages you’ve learned by heart. Reporters get frustrated when someone rolls out a rehearsed reply. Canned answers can also hinder your ability to reply effectively to hard-ball questions and give necessary context.
WHAT: Capture the authenticity of your company to make an impact on stakeholders.
HOW: Short videos about your product can be valuable and impactful, and case studies, customer recommendations, or quotes all work well as authentic endorsements for your business.
WHAT: Be transparent (as much as possible) about the stage of your business development.
HOW: If your company is not quite ready to face a national media launch and exposure, prepare yourself for when the time is right. Be smart and brave about turning down media opportunities if the timing doesn’t feel right.
THINK ABOUT WHAT’S NEXT.
WHAT: Explore different outlets and channels for promotion.
HOW: Podcasts, editorials, blogs, vlogs are necessary to provide a free ride to broader media exposure. Your target audience is not on just one channel.
WHAT: Make media think about you for their next story. If you’re putting yourself out there, it won’t be long before your audience identifies you as an expert in your field and thinks of you as a thought leader.
HOW: Prepare a list of media that you aim to communicate with. Reach out regularly with newsworthy updates.
These tips will help any startup approach PR with a smart strategy, but make no mistake – it still takes time and effort. Founders should consider their internal resources and choose someone comfortable with media communications to take the lead, and when possible, hire an external publicist. While PR tends to be overlooked as a necessary part of a company’s strategy, it is often the most effective way to push the needle on a company’s success.