PR that actually works: FOUNDER-LED PR

As business people, we find ourselves navigating a somewhat unfamiliar landscape of disruption. The rise of digital media and social networks has us all clamouring for new (and better) ways to turn ideas into successes. In this new age, PR is crucial not only to your start-up but to your professional image as well.

In my information scouting ventures I found a great video published by Stanford Online, in which Sharon Pope, Head of Programs and Marketing at YC Continuity, gives a great walkthrough on how to think about PR and work with the press. (You’ll find the video on Youtube)

We all know how important PR is. We also know that PR and product innovation go hand in hand. While it’s entirely possible to drum up media hype and score some interviews in prominent magazines and on popular websites, this content isn’t going to guarantee your eventual success if your product isn’t “amazing” enough to warrant that kind of hype. Having faith in your product is the first step in a powerful PR program.

Start-up founders are quick to search for outside services, and PR is no different. Founder-led PR, however, is a better way for start-ups to create a PR program that packs the right amount of punch. While it’s true that PR firms know their way around what’s relevant in the news, as a founder, you have something the media wants: the real inside scoop. Reporters want to hear from founders; this is the end-spokesperson for them. Establish a direct line with reporters and you’ll find them coming to you further down the line when they need a subject matter expert in your domain. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. They can be your voice in the media and you can be their fountain of niche information when they need it.

Hiring an outside PR firm can deprive you of the process of defining your own business and simplifying your message. This is the foundation of your brand identity, and tackling the process internally will be invaluable in every aspect of running your business. Building up an internal PR team that knows your message is a more effective and affordable way to connect with the media. You could pay tens of thousands of dollars in monthly retainers to outside PR firms before getting a single story out there; which isn’t necessarily the best use of start-up funds.

Here are 5 simple steps you can focus on to make your founder-led PR program a success:

1. Develop Your Company Identity

– What do you do?

– Who is your ideal customer?

– What primary problem are you solving for your customer?

– What is your KPI? How is it growing?

– Do you know who your competitors are?

– What makes your product better than that of your competitor(s)?

– What are your plans for the next year?

– What made you uniquely qualified to start your company?

2. Define Your Business Goals and Discover Your Audience

–  Do you want to finance growth?

– Do you want to recruit the best talent?

– Do you want to land strategic partnerships to foster growth?

– Do you want to drive product trials?

– Do you want to secure a research grant?

– Is your audience investors, potential customers, or potential partners?

– How does your priority audience get their news?

3. Discover Where You Want Your News to Be Read

– Which top 5 reporters write articles that gel well with your image?

– What stories do your top 5 reporters write?

– What angle pushed these reporters to write?

– What angle are you looking for?

– Can you find a connection to them? Is there a way for you to get an introduction through someone?

4. Know What to Say and Where to Say It

– Do you want to share news about your product launches, fundraising, metrics, big hiring announcements, or stunts?

– Do you want to share insights on non-company related news such as politics, new market innovations, contextualizing other company announcements, or general entertainment?

– Do you have a way to contact reporters to pitch your ideas?

– Do you have a blog for reporters to click through for reference (don’t add email attachments)

– Do you want to give a particular reporter an exclusive scoop for their eyes only?

– Are you taking an embargo approach and contacting several reporters with a pre-brief?

5. Be a Valuable Source of Information

– Are you keeping an eye on Google Alerts and RSS Feeds for news?

– Are you watching HARO (Help a Reporter Out) for potential news stories?

– Are you searching Twitter for #journorequests and #PRrequests?

– Are you participating by sharing your opinion on articles that interest you?

– Are you giving your real thoughts instead of shameless self-promotion?

– Are you participating in Q&A sessions on Quora and Reddit?

– Are you creating your own content on platforms like Medium or your own blog?

Developing your own PR strategy is an important part of establishing your brand. When you break them down, these 5 steps are completely achievable. It’s all about taking the right steps and being thorough in your approach.