A start-up is what it is – a small company trying to validate an idea. Sometimes, those ideas turn into a hugely profitable business.
But most of the time, many crumble in less than a year or two. What the founders do in terms of marketing approach usually makes all the difference.
When it comes to marketing spend, most start-ups have little to none as most are usually bootstrapping in the early stage before an investment round.
To overcome this hurdle, most smart start-ups approach marketing by deploying carefully considered Public Relations strategies.
Now, don’t misunderstand my use of Public Relations. In the established corporate world, what start-ups end up with amounts only to media relations. But it is the best they could do in the beginning. Fortunately, it is usually enough, if it is well done.
This article will is aimed at teaching start-up owners on how to leverage effective PR strategies to drive their marketing.
Why do you need PR?
First, PR is credible. Compared to outright advertising, PR activities are usually considered more credible. And even among media-savvy individuals, PR enjoys a much more open acceptable.
As a start-up, which would you consider more effective? – Putting out an article explaining your services in a national newspaper, or taking out a space to advertise that product?
While there is nothing wrong with the two approaches, the target audience is likely to see the article as more credible than the advert.
Second, PR is far more cost-effective. Compared to advertising, the cost of PR is a walk in the park such that a start-up can afford it in one form or another. When compared with the results of the two, a start-up is likely to achieve far more with a far less budget compared with outright advertising. However, at a certain stage of your start-up, outright advertising is inevitable for brand positioning.
Your start-up also needs PR because of its lead generation capability. Imagine, for example, that at the launch of your service, all you could afford was a press release distributed to media houses. This action is likely to get some potential customers making inquiries than spending money for an elaborate launch event or rolling out an expensive ad campaign.
How can you get started?
I get this question very often, and my answer is contained in the steps highlighted below.
There are two major steps you need to take before launching a PR campaign for your start-up. These steps assume that you cannot afford an agency to handle this aspect of your business since you have not the budget yet.
The steps include:
- Conducting an internal research
- Conducting media research.
CONDUCTING INTERNAL RESEARCH
This research is to establish that you understand your business to the extent of being able to sell its services to the media. This will help you to understand the core values you offer, and what needs to be communicated to the media.
Consider the following:
- Do your homework by taking stock of your start-up’s offerings:
You should have done this before launching your start-up. If you haven’t in a coordinated manner, now is the best time to do it. Now is the best time to have them by heart. Memorise them if you must. This is so that you don’t have to stammer if you suddenly meet that journalist you always wanted to pitch your story to.
- Consider the big picture: Ask yourself: “Which part of the economy does my product and services fit in?” This is important as it would determine your media approach. If your start-up sells computer hardware, you should be interested in the market dynamics of computer hardware in Nigeria or other markets you operate in. Know the value of the market, it’s potential to share and explains your target. This also means you should be targeting journalists writing about high tech or the IT industry to share your story.
- Take stock of your metrics: When I say metrics, I mean what your numbers look like – visitors, users, daily signups, revenue, potential revenue target, profit projections, investment potentials, etc. If the numbers are depressing, I don’t recommend sharing them, but if they are looking good, blow the trumpet, and don’t try to be conservative about it. Why is knowing your metrics so important? In business reporting, numbers are everything. No reporter who knows his onions will ignore it. In the newsroom, good numbers or terribly bad ones are irresistible. Take this and use it to your advantage.
- Understand your story: What is good about your story? What makes your start-up, the products and services you offer unique? This goes beyond the one-liner stating your unique selling proposition. Go over and beyond and create a story that will appeal to the media. Memorise this story and shameless begin your pitch with it.
- Take a photo for the media: Pictures are worth more than a thousand words, said a Chinese proverb. In today’s digital communication, there is no good story with a photo. In my company, we have had several near-crisis situations because the founders have no good photos of either themselves or their products and services to share with the media.
Even if they have a photo that has been used in the media before, the fresh story and its circumstances usually demand something totally new. The ones on social media are usually not good enough.
Many editors are likely to drop your story if there is neither a picture of the founder or an ideal image to represent the services the start-up offers.
What we usually recommend to our clients is to have a photo session where the founder or the CEO can take several media-rated and appealing shots, save them separately in a folder long before approaching the media. You should do that.
In your media research, you want to establish that the number of media channels that cover your type of story, how much space and airtime is dedicated to it and who are the reporters/anchors in charge.
Your media research should cover these simple three steps:
1: Research relevant media channels: The first thing you need to do is to blanket all media that cover everything related to your sector. Track your competition’s media mentions, trends analysis, government regulations and advertorials relating to your sector, etc.
- Pinpoint to the relevant section: This is a time to narrow your research down to what the section in the media that covers your sector is called. Assuming you are an agritech start-up, you would realise that two sections will cover events related to your industry. They include the Agric and Technology sections. You should note this, and pitch to the two.
- Narrow down reporters that cover the beat: Beat is a term used to describe sections that a publishing outlet covers. So, you have the Agriculture, Technology, Crime, Aviation, Finance, Politics beats and so on. Reporters are usually assigned beats and no one reporter covers everything. So, your job is to find out which reporter covers beats that are relevant to you. Once you have identified them, you can then start looking for a way to pitch your story to them.
To be continued…
*Jonah Solomon is a public relations professional and the founder of Yadel Media, a PR and marketing agency focusing on tech start-ups in Africa.