On a recent flight from Rome to Paris, I picked up the airline's in-flight magazine and found myself reading an interview with a French expat from Britain who had moved to the south of France to start her own winery. She became quite successful within a relatively short period of time, which isn't the fate of moststartups.
Although startup fever is easy to catch, the sorry fact is that most startups fail with with failure rates as high as 90% reported..
Yet, the unfavorable odds aren't a deterrent to startups launching. In fact, the number of startups is on the rise, particularly since the beginning of the global financial crisis. According to Forbes, the United States is currently home to more than 20 million non-employer businesses. The apparent ease of starting your own business has led many to strike out on their own.
So what can you do to increase the odds in your favor?
One simple answer is to get known.
One reason so many startups fail is that they haven't adequately differentiated themselves from their competitors nor successfully marketed themselves. They simply flounder along without adequate promotion.
In our experience, good PR for startups can be the difference between success and failure. Here are 6 ways to get you started.
6 PR Tips for Startups
1.Know Your Brand
In the movieA Good Year, Russell Crowe's character worked in the stock market before inheriting a somewhat run-down vineyard which he turned into a wonderful success.
This sounds romantic, but the real deal is that you have to know your product inside and out before launching your startup. The woman with the winery didn't launch her business on a whim. She worked several years in the industry and gained experience as she did painstaking research to learn how to make her brand a success.
The bottom line is even if you have a great idea, if you know little about your industry, you risk landing a huge flop.
2. Don't Be Hasty
It's exciting to be on the verge of a what may truly be “the next great thing.". However, jumping the gun and releasing your brand or product to the public will do more harm than if you patiently wait until it's truly ready.
Refine your website, product, and business model... and then do it again. Get some feedback... and then refine it again. If your launch attracts widespread media attention, make sure it's due to the impressive nature of your startup, not because it was featured in a Twitter feed of the worst startups.
3. Tell Your Story
One of the reasons the article about the winery caught my eye was because it was about how the business was created. We all like to hear about the achievements of an underdog. Some of the most successful companies of all time started in garages, dorm rooms, and basements. These stories inspire us because we think of how we can achieve the same success, and at the same time we're rooting for the hero to win.
When you are ready to launch, have your story clearly in mind. What idea/event/life change gave birth to your startup? What obstacles did you face? Why is your startup a sure win? Have clear, easy-to-understand answers to these questions.
4. Use Social Media
Social media is the entrepreneur’s best friend. You get to add a personal touch to your PR and establish relationships with your customer base. Answer questions, post updates, share industry information, and engage your followers.
This alone can be at least a part-time job. If you find yourself only using social media sporadically it may be time to enlist some help. This brings us to our next crucial point....
5. Don't Be a Control Freak
In the interview, the winery owner all but made the comment “If you want something right, do it yourself.” I found this to be a bit sad, as well as a turn-off.
To be sure, being hands-on is crucial for any startup. After all, you don't want to give your baby over to just anyone. However, there is such a thing as too much control. No person is good at everything. Recognize your strengths and then hire others to move in where your weaknesses reside.
You will naturally be emotionally involved in your business. Use your passion to become the face of your brand and create positive relations with prospects, influencers and the media. Your enthusiasm will no doubt shine through and make your launch that much more successful.
6. Consider Hiring a PR Firm
There is some debate over this topic with some advising to go it alone, not having found an adequate return in hiring a firm.
However, this really goes back to our previous point about not feeling as though you have to do everything in your company. Hire a firm that has a track record helping make a startup successful. A good PR person can look at your company objectively to determine what is news and what is simply fluff.
The happy ending to the winery story involved a rapid rise to success, including several international awards for certain vintages. But, how would people know this if it hadn't been talked up in the media?
Want to see how we helped one startup get covered In Forbes, TechCrunch and on Bloomberg TV? Check out this case study.