10 Public Relations Tactics That Will Make You a Startup Rockstar

Posted by Wendy Marx

10 Public Relations Tactics That Will Make You a Startup Rockstar

Startups face an interesting dilemma when it comes to public relations tactics. They need attention in order to grow their audience and increase brand awareness. But how can they become known when they are forced to compete with larger, more established businesses?

It's a David and Goliath story.

The Goliaths of the world -- mega-corporations with the name and checkbook to match -- often effortlessly receive an elite level of media attention. On the flip side, the Davids of the business world -- entrepreneurial startups with tight budgets and no name recognition -- struggle to compete for media attention, and often fall through the cracks.

So how do you as a startup break through the noise and grab a journalist’s full attention? Just like David with no more than five small stones and an unassuming slingshot, you use your own unique set of tactics.

Modern tactics like PR storytelling and using boutique PR firms can help.


Startups oftentimes have to compete with other larger, more established businesses Tweet: Startups oftentimes have to compete with other larger, more well-established businesses @wendymarx TO TWEET


Don't Go It Alone

When budgeting for their startup, many entrepreneurs mistakenly view PR professionals and boutique PR firms as a frivolous expense. They assume, "It can't be that hard. We can do it ourselves."

First a word of caution. PR has its own cadence. Unless a startup has its story and product or service securely buttoned up, don't think PR.

Why do we caution you against this?

Because we've seen it go south all too quickly. The worst thing you can do is go out prematurely and receive negative press. It's like getting gum on your shoes. Once it sticks, it's very hard to get off. For a long time, your startup will be saddled with negative images.

Once you're ready, that's another story. Then you want to get out the microphone to tell your story. And a boutique PR firm can help you get there without breaking the bank.

The following are 10 must-know tactics that will make you unbeatable against your Goliath business competitors.

10 Public Relations Tactics That Will Rock Your Startup

1. Identify Your Goals/Define Your Message

Goals will get your PR on the right track while a lack of goals will ensure your PR goes nowhere. Goals might include:

  • Increase qualified website visitors
  • Attract new customers
  • Build brand awareness
  • Establish thought leadership

Once you have clearly outlined your goals, build a coherent and accessible message. What do you want people to remember about your business? Why should anyone care? What's your key selling point that makes what you're doing ia shoe-in for prospects? . 

2. Choose a Newsworthy Subject

With the amount of competition among startups and larger businesses for media coverage, it can seem daunting to get noticed. How can you stand out? With a knockout pitch message that sets you apart.

Choose topics that are considered newsworthy to your audience. This could be your startup launch, or the launch of a new product or service. Other newsworthy topics to consider incude:

  • Executive hire
  • New funding
  • New location
  • Company milestone

Since you are a startup, it will be difficult to compete with other larger companies -- imagine your release going out as the same time as an announcement from Apple! So don’t try. Choose release times that won’t get you steamrolled.

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3. Implement PR Storytelling

Storytelling has the power to connect you to your audience on an emotional level. And emotion can be a powerful force. You can use this emotional connection to engage a journalist.

Storytelling begins even before you choose your pitch topic. You should choose one that naturally produces an engaging story. Think about it from the point of view of a journalist -- what would their audience want to read?

Once you have your topic in mind, create an outline. Writing an outline allows you to see whether your points will capture a reporter or blogger's interest. Anticipate questions and holes within your pitch -- then fill the holes.


Storytelling has the power to connect you to your audience on an emotional level  Tweet: Storytelling has the power to connect you to your audience on an emotional level @wendymarx TO TWEET

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4. Don’t Take Shortcuts

There are no shortcuts when it comes to startup PR. You are a new company, with a relatively unknown team. Getting press attention as a startup requires persistence and creativity.

Don’t take the easy route of blasting emails to every journalist whose contact information you can fine. Do your research, and approach every pitch with intelligence and strategy.

On that note...

5. Get to Know Your Audience

Journalists get upwards of 100 pitches a day -- especially if they work somewhere like The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. This means they don’t mess around. If something is off about your pitch -- you send a batch email or your story doesn’t apply to their beat -- it will be deleted in a nano second.

Do thorough research before you pitch. Make sure your pitch fits into reporters' beats. Read their past stories and get a feel for what interests them. Mention these within your pitch if appropriate -- the fact that you did your research can differentiate you.

Right from the beginning, provide context to the journalist. Why did you choose him or her specifically? Why is the pitch important to the writer's audience?

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6. Be Considerate

As we mentioned, , journalists are busier than ever, and need you to get to the point quickly. Avoid long-winded introductions that may lose your reader. Be specific about the who, what, when, where, and how of the pitch. Why is it important to the journalist to consider your pitch? Why is it pertinent now and wasn't 6 months ago?

Avoid bland language -- you want to connect with the journalist and stir them to action with a colorful pitch that stands out.

Remember, this process isn’t about you. Your role is to help the journalist -- so seek ways to genuinely provide value. What stories do they want? What is their beat? What makes your pitch advantageous to them?

7. Stay Fresh

Many times you can compensate for your company’s lack of size with ingenuity -- a regular David-and-Goliath maneuver.

Offer a fresh perspective on your story. Look for alternatives that will give you a leg up on competing stories. This is your opportunity to think out of the box, and appeal to journalists and bloggers in a different way than usual.

One way to offer a fresh perspective is to do your own research study. That provides original data no one else has and may pique a journalist's interest. Helpful hint: When you're creating your survey, think about what will appeal to a journalist, not only the survey respondent or your company. Try to ask questions that will get contrarian responses -- something no one would assume would be the case.

8. Use Bullet Points and White Space

Large blocks of text will overwhelm a journalist -- any reader, for that matter -- and might tempt someone to delete your pitch before reading it fully. Avoid this by breaking up text into bullet points and smaller paragraphs that are easy to digest.

Remember, bullets and white space can be your best friend. 

9. Avoid Industry Jargon

The last thing you want to do is lose the journalist who receives your pitch. If journalists don’t understand the fundamentals of your pitch, they won’t ask twice. Your pitch will simply be discarded.

Avoid this fate by writing a pitch that anyone would understand. Ask someone outside of the industry (perhaps a family member or friend) to read over your pitch before you send it to anyone. If there is any misunderstandings or wandering attention spans, take your pitch back to the drawing board.

10. Choose a Boutique PR Firm That Can Help

If you don’t have a PR background, then maneuvering the ups and downs of public relations will be a little rocky. A boutique PR firm can offer the expertise to help you to learn the playing field, and score media opportunities without breaking the bank. A boutique PR agency will provide senior level attention and flexilbity, which larger agencies, given their structure, can't afford to provide.

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What a Model Pitch Looks Like

Let's take a moment and look at all of these tactics in action. The following is an actual pitch concerning recent research conducted by a financial services startup. It  tot the attention of journalis who received it.


Hi [Insert name of journalist/blogger],

A major survey released today captures sentiments and investment behavior of a wide swath of affluent investors and financial advisers – with a significant paradox.

Key findings of the XX Survey include:

  • Serious, growing economic concerns, despite a positive outlook based on President Trump’s policy agenda
  • Evidence of the surge in robo investing
  • Investors’ rising confidence in managing their own portfolios

The survey, by X, drew responses from nearly 5,700 people, who collectively influence hundreds of billions of dollars in assets. Almost 25% of the individual investors responding have more than $1 million in investable assets (besides real estate), and half of the asset management firms represented manage more than $1 billion in assets.

Please see the release below (which links to a related report), and let me know if you’d like to interview an XX expert on the findings and what they mean.


Key Points to Remember…

  • Clearly identify your PR goals, and use these to identify what journalists you will pitch to and about what.
  • Choose a story that is newsworthy and relevant to a journalist’s beat and interests.
  • Avoid complicated industry jargon that will just lose your audience and end in a deleted pitch.
  • Utilize the expertise of a boutique PR firm that knows how to amplify your story and get you the media attention you deserve.

Remember, just because you may feel like the under-dog when it comes to media attention doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. Use these public relations tactics to amplify your PR efforts and get real results.

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Topics: PR and Marketing for Startups

Jul 28, 2017



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