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PR 101: 5 Essential Tools Of The Trade.

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You may have the greatest product or service in the world but if no one knows about it, if customers don’t realize why they can’t live without it or understand (in non- technical jargon) just how that “widget” is going to change their life, frankly, what’s the point?

Let’s face it, PR is often ranked low on the priority list of a bootstrapped startup. Who has that kind of money and time to develop and execute on PR strategy? As we discussed in last month’s article, PR programs can be surprisingly expensive and can eat up a startup’s lean budget in no time, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are several PR tactics and strategies that are both inexpensive and simple to implement, from in-house.

These tools should help your company effectively promote visibility and more importantly drive sales through the roof. PR professionals and big agencies use these PR tools daily to aid them in relaying information to a company’s target audience. As a startup, you have to be smart with your time. You can’t do it all. So focus on what is important. What’s “doable”. At the very minimum, consider these “power tools” and at least give them a test drive.

It will be well worth the time investment.

Effective PR Sells

Last month’s article PR For Startups On a Shoestring Budget, highlighted three critical building blocks of an effective PR Program: Target Audience, Core Messaging and Building Media Relationships. This month, let’s look at PR tools that will allow you to reach that audience and deliver those messages to your new “friends” in the media and their readers a.k.a your high potential customers.

Below are activities that can be pursued at little or no cost but are highly effective, provided that your message is consistent and compelling.

No matter which of the following “tools” or “communication channels” you use, be it a press release, a presentation, a media interview or a public keynote address, remember, be:

clear, concise and specific.

A Startup’s PR Tool Box

I. Press Release/Media Alert:

A Press Release, or it’s one paged “sister”, the Media Alert, is one of the most popular tools used to get publicity. A Press Releases delivers news. It highlights a company, its products and partnerships while creating awareness of its place in the industry. Thousands of Press Releases are issued every day, very often by means of a Wire service, like PR Newswire. However many announcements are ignored or lost in the shuffle.

That’s why they should be reserved to publicize mission-critical company news like company and product launches, technology advancements, earning/sales updates, strategic alliances, noteworthy customer wins or significant new hires.

While announcements are a highly effective PR tool, think long and hard before you press the send button. Do the litmus test. Make sure the content is “newsworthy”. Will this news have an impact on the industry? Will this news be relevant to your customer base?

Only you can make that call. Be objective. Choose wisely.

II. Speaking Opportunities: Keynotes, Panels and Slideshare

Early in the publicity process, keynote addresses and speaker panel opportunities allow startups to reach customers directly by speaking in a forum directed at specific groups and target customers. Be on the look out for “call for speaker” emails. These opportunities are often booked 6 months in advance and can be secured by submitting an abstract to the conference organizers.

Speaking engagements can very easily increase your visibility online and offline, establishes you as an industry expert and may generate valuable business leads. So don’t wait to be asked. Reach out. Look locally, nationally and internationally for conferences and events where new business prospects may attend.

Don’t be afraid to cut your teeth on smaller events or “slots”. They will help you prepare for the bigger gigs. Help you get your presentation tools sharpened. And to get a few extra miles out of the same effort, upload you presentation on Slideshare, share it on Twitter, Facebook and Twitter.

With few resources and limited time to devote to PR, you have to:

Leverage, leverage leverage!

III. Editorial Opportunities: (Features, Profile, Product Review, Success Stories)

Most publications issue an editorial calendar ( a plan of the editorial coverage that the publication is planning for the upcoming year.) At a glance, you will be able to see what’s coming up and what’s being featured for the next 12 months. This is an easy way to be proactive and “get in” on a story. You have the opportunity to shape and influence an upcoming article.

If there are no opportunities that seems to match your company’s story try other routes for coverage. Pitch the publication on doing a profile on your “amazing” CEO, or perhaps a product test-drive or review (only if it is ready to go, without bugs!) or perhaps a customer success story.

Always a winner.

IV. Social Media Groups:  User groups or communities on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin are great ways or startups to get exposure and get your company’s message out there. Get plugged in to forums relevant to your industry and start sharing information. Offer your expert opinion or experiences to other startups.

Network. Become involved in topical discussions. Comment. Share. Be an expert. And remember, play by the rules and follow the guidelines of the group.

The key to success.

V. A Company Blog

“To blog, or not to blog, that is the questions?”

I say blog! It is a highly effective communications vehicle for your startup. A blog allows you to communicate openly and directly with your customers, helps build relationships, allows you to deliver up-to-date news along with your core messages. Remember to address issues that relate to your target audience. Provide solutions and insights that are helpful and position you as the expert that you are.

At SOSventures, our web traffic doubled in a month because of the launch of our very own blog “Words, Wit, Wisdom”. What can I say, I rest my case.

It ticks all the boxes AND it’s free!

So now that you have a set of easy to use PR tools at your disposal…what are you waiting for?

Get your PR hat on and tell us why and how that “widget” is going to rock our world!

You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.

Next month: PR 101: How To Write A Press Release


Author by Jane Mazur, Public Relations, SOS Ventures.

Jane is a communications professional with over 18 years of experience planning, coordinating and executing strategic plans for Internet startups and Fortune 500 companies worldwide. She has participated as a senior member of several communications management teams providing communications support of M & A's and IPOs. Jane spent three years at an award winning PR agency, based in Silicon Valley, California, overseeing public relations programs for multiple global clients including Yahoo!. She went on to serve as Director of Corporate Communications at Dialogic, an Intel company. As founder of Xpress Launch Public Relations, Jane consulted on special projects for technology companies. She holds a degree in foreign languages from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


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