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5 ways PR can help startups toot their own horns

Are we afraid to toot our own horns?

Recently, I read this piece by Carrie Ghose of Columbus Business First, Here’s why one entrepreneur ‘would absolutely locate’ his startup in Columbus.

For the story, Ghose interviewed the program manager for Startup Week, which was held here in Columbus earlier this month. He flew into town from Omaha and said, after his visit here, that he would ”absolutely locate my startup in Columbus.” He talked about the pros–such as its central location, talent, etc.–then went on to say that of all the things Columbus has to offer startups, one thing it’s lacking is “champions.” To quote Ghose, “In essence, Columbus needs to brag more and tell its story…”

I found this really fascinating, because as Midwesterners, we do tend to shy away from tooting our own horns…this can hurt us, though.

As a PR pro, I find that working with clients here in the Midwest differs greatly from where I launched my business in Silicon Valley. Folks there aren’t nearly as shy about telling their stories. PR is an integral part of startup life there, as it’s an accepted form of storytelling, or “bragging,” if you will.

This modest Midwestern mindset creates a challenge—not only for me, but for startups and other small businesses here. We need to get away from this “tooting our own horn” phobia and get more comfortable talking about ourselves and telling our stories.

How can PR help with this? Here are five ways:

1) Press releases: A press release can be written and leveraged in a number of ways (see my piece here on 5 ways to make use of a press release)

2) Social media: Use social media to tell your stories. This piece has a nice breakdown of which social media outlets to focus on.

3) Blogging: Use your blog to publish content and share tales of how the company was founded, the challenges faced along the way, building the team and so forth.

4) Speaking engagements: Get out and speak to tell your stories. This raises the visibility of the company, and you can promote it via social media and your site before, during and after the gig.

5) Contributed articles: Write about how your customers are using your products. Many times, industry publications accept these articles. Always check first to make sure they can use it before writing and submitting it.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started.

Let’s keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with tooting our own horn….after all, if we don’t, who will?

 

 

Five Midyear Money-Saving Tips to Cut Your PR Costs

July marks the midpoint of the year, when many businesses assess budgets and begin forecasting expenditures for the remaining months as they start to plan for 2015. In the spirit of budgeting, today’s blog post focuses on tips to help you save money on your PR efforts.

You may not realize that there are free resources out there to take advantage of. Of course, there are some lower cost paid options, as well, if you have some budget but don’t want to break the bank.

Here are five categories of  helpful PR resources, many of them free, to assist you with your efforts:

1) For reporter queries: Here are three resources you can sign up for free that send out email daily with reporter queries (reporters looking for people to interview). Anyone may respond, as long as the guidelines are followed:

  • HARO: Everyone’s an expert at something. Sharing your expertise may land you that big media opportunity you’ve been looking for. http://www.helpareporter.com/
  • Pitchrate: Simply register as an expert, and then when you see a request that’s appropriate for your expertise, “make a pitch.” That will send your pitch to the journalist making the request. http://www.pitchrate.com/
  • SourceBottle: Exclusively focused on topics around women’s interests, including beauty, business, home and lifestyle, health, parenting and relationships. http://www.thesourcebottle.com/us-can/

2) For awards and speaking opportunities: IT Memos: This service provides a complimentary subset of award and speaking opportunities geared toward the IT industry (the paid service provides even more opportunities): http://itdatabase.com

3) For research: Take advantage of Google. Use it to research to see which reporters and publications are writing about your competitors and your industry. Also use it to research publications that might be a fit and then check editorial calendars for opportunities.

4) Press release services: Issue press releases free via these wire services. There are many, but these are the two I use most often:

  • PR.com, http://www.pr.com/. This one gets the news on the search engines; note there’s a 24-36 hour lag time on the release actually being posted, so plan ahead.
  • PRLog.com, http://www.prlog.org/. This one allows you to add a photo and/or video at no charge. You can choose to issue the release instantly or set a date/time.

And, if you have the budget, here are three services that charge to issue press releases:

5) For editorial calendar opportunities: To find editorial calendar opportunities, here’s a free resource:

You may also visit each publication’s site. Many list their editorial calendar online (sometimes it can be found under “Advertising” or “Media Kit”), so it’s possible to build your own calendar of opportunities that may be a fit for free. Paid services are also available such as MyEdCals, http://www.mymediainfo.com/myedcals.html.

 

“Effective PR is essentially inception…”

Excellent Forbes piece here on PR dos and don’ts-although it says it’s geared to start-ups in the title, the advice could apply across the board to established companies, as well. 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sethporges/2013/05/17/the-10-pr-disasters-all-start-ups-need-to-avoid/

Although the article is chock-full of great tips, this may be my favorite line: “Effective PR is essentially inception: It’s your job to plant the seed of an idea in a writer’s head.” What happens after that is up to the reporter or publication. I often say to clients and colleagues that PR opens the door to opportunity–it creates a chance for them to receive coverage. It doesn’t GUARANTEE coverage–but without that door being open, you have a much lesser chance of being on the reporter’s radar. 

Watch for more coming on this idea in my blog post later this week. 

Startups 30% More Likely to Get Funding with PR

Just saw this article in Fast Company about how much more likely startups are to get funding if they engage in PR–30% more likely!

 http://www.fastcompany.com/3009338/the-truth-about-pr-done-right-and-what-it-does-for-your-startup

Sometimes, the rub is that startups have trouble finding the budget to include PR in their early stages. That’s where a good consultant can come in. While startups may need PR, they DON’T need to overspend on it. Consultants offer an affordable alternative and can be very effective in getting them the visibility they need to get out in front of the VCs, not to mention customers!

This article also discusses how PR can take something humdrum that the masses may not care about and turn it into something they can relate to. The author says (and I’m borrowing this directly from the article because I love the way she wrote it!), “Great PR–and yes there is such a thing–transforms a product or service into something meaningful.” 

This is what’s truly at the heart of a good PR effort–making your audience care about what you have to offer, be it a product, service, or event. Sometimes, PR can take your messaging and turn it into something a reporter, VC or potential customer MUST hear more about. In essence, it whets their appetite to learn more. 

True, PR isn’t a magic bullet–but it can be the catalyst that ignites interest in what you’re selling.