Startups Need to Focus More Energy on Their PR Strategy

April 13, 2016

8:00 pm

Once upon a time the tech unicorns of today were struggling small companies battling competitors for customers and fighting for the attention of venture capitalists. The secret behind the rapid growth of startups like Airbnb, Uber and Snapchat involves a special formula that includes strategic funding, a great product, consumer interest and of course, a great PR strategy. Without public relations, consumers would have no idea these companies existed. And with a lack of consumer interest there would be no incentive for venture capitalists to invest in the company.

Launching Needs Strategy

Launching a company is a stressful feat in and of itself. Product trials, reviews, and mounds of consumer data occupy the time of founders, leaving little time for sleep— much less, composing a PR strategy and building relationships with journalists. Becoming desirable to the media requires more than a great product— it requires strategy, an immense amount of time and a great story.

Truth be told, no company’s product is unique enough to sell itself. The number one mistake startups make when launching is to believe their product or service is so innovative the media will hunt them down for a story. Don’t believe this myth.

When companies announce their presence to the world, consumers only read glorified articles on their successes. What consumers fail to see are the months of planning behind the announcement. They fail to see the work in developing a plan, building targeted lists, concepting novel story angles, creating editorial pieces, designing social strategies, creative and building an immense amount of relationships to be leveraged.

A public relations strategy is the evaluation of calculated risks and rewards- as a sure thing is nonexistent in PR. The media and the industries that read their stories are an always moving target. That said, there are ways to provide a scope to the powerful weapon that communications can be.  The launch campaigns that tug at heart strings, make people laugh, or provoke action are the most successful. Risks must be deliberated and have a written plan for a resolution. With early-stage startups constantly evolving, it takes months to identify potential risks and compose a calculated PR strategy to each risk. The best public relations launch strategies not only get companies noticed by consumers, but they also differentiate them from power house competitors.

Competition Is Fierce

Competition in the startup space is fierce. Not only are early-stage startups desperately attempting to capture the attention of consumers and venture capitalists — they are battling multi-billion dollar corporations that are in the media every hour of every day.

PR levels the playing field for smaller companies entering markets saturated with multi-billion dollar companies and their impressive advertising budgets.  Standing out from the heavy hitters is no easy feat and requires an element of human connection, paired with flawless execution. When these elements are incorporated into the PR formula, consumers begin to fall in love with a company. And people who are in love tend to shout it from the rooftops. Once consumers start talking, the media’s ears perk up and begin to listen.

PR Is More Than Media Placements

The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” While the media plays a significant role in the process, PR is more than just successful placements in the media. PR dictates the voice of a brand and the message that is conveyed. The delivery of a particular message can be done through the content of blog posts research, events, social media efforts, analysts, thought leadership, and then is amplified by the media.

PR Is Messy

When advertising, companies have full control of the message, imagery and target market they wish to reach, It’s a pay to play process that is effective for driving traffic, but doesn’t relay the message or voice of a brand.  PR on the other hand can convey this voice while also driving traffic. Unfortunately, PR is not as easy as point, click and pay. It requires the persuasion of the media, potential consumers and critics. Founders must become industry experts who are fully aware of the competition and why their company is better or at least, differentiated, from the rest. It requires the utmost honesty and transparency, something that makes many people uncomfortable. The media and public can be ruthless and are experts at spotting imperfections. One heated outburst or ill prepared response could be the death of a once blossoming company.

Voice, Position, and differentiation come with strategic public relations. Coupled with an advertising industry constantly in flux, PR is becoming a necessary component to the success of any brand, as opposed to an after-thought. Entrepreneurs often wear many hats and usually do not have the time to juggle the 24-hour a day job of PR, while balancing other business operations. Startups need PR consultation at the very least to make their brand more credible, to gain trust and to make the organization memorable in the eyes of consumers. The slew of challenges require expert navigation, but once a path can be found and a trail blazed, it can be the most surefire route to success.

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Ryan Philemon is VP and Media Strategist at Emerging Insider Communications. Working with emerging tech, he transforms companies into storytelling machines. Connect with him on Twitter @RyanPhilemon.

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