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PR 101: For Startups On a Shoestring Budget.

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Congratulations! You did it! You attracted those key investors and secured funding for your million dollar idea. You’ve already designed, developed, and manufactured a product and you have won more than a few hundred customers that can’t live without your new widget. Now you are ready to scale. Ready to
raise your company’s profile and get the visibility and recognition that you deserve. But how will you make the leap? How will you get that kind of traction without sinking the ship financially?

Media and marketing campaigns outsourced to agencies can be surprisingly expensive and can eat up a startup’s lean budget in no time. The cost of advertising, trade shows, sales campaigns and channel development activities can go into thousands of dollars on a monthly basis. So what other strategies can a bootstrapped startup use to gain visibility on a shoestring budget? You got it.

Good old fashioned PR!

There are key PR tactics and strategies that are both inexpensive and simple to implement yet highly effective at establishing credibility, creating awareness and driving sales of products. So how can you get started ?

This monthly PR blog is the first in a series of articles that will offer startups practical advice on how to build and manage your own “PR toolbox”. In the coming months, I will cover the critical elements of an effective public relations program that will kick start your “in-house” marketing machine and prepare your startup for the spotlight!

PR 101

So let’s begin. What is PR? By definition, public relations is the practice of creating, promoting, or maintaining goodwill and a favourable image among the public towards an institution or public body. More simply put, it is a craft of influence. But who do you have to influence and how will you win their approval and endorsement?

A few things to consider.

First Things First:

To build a solid foundation for your communications program you must have a good understanding of the following three areas of marketing/PR:

Target Audience, Core Messaging, Media Relations.

I. Target Audience

 Identifying specific groups of consumers or users that may be interested in your product or service will determine who you need to influence. Not everyone will be interested in what you have to offer so be realistic about who the likely consumers are. Once identified, you can tailor specific messages for that audience that will address their concerns and provide them with solutions via your company’s latest offering. This will also help you establish a target media list and increase your odds of getting press coverage in publications that count. This will save you valuable time and make your PR effort count.

II. Core Messages

The absolute success of your startup will largely depend on your ability to articulate what makes you different from your competitors. Your core message is a quick, simple way of telling your target audience why you are different. It should explain the unique benefit of your solution and how it will positively impact their life.

Getting these messages right is of critical importance. It may be a gruelling and time consuming exercise but it is worth the effort. Core messages will be the backbone of all marketing content created for your business. Once agreed, you can tell a consistent and compelling story via any communications channel, be it a presentation, a press release, a media interview or a pubic keynote address.

So how do you start writing these core messages?

Start by asking yourself: “what do I want my audience to remember? What action do I want them to take once they have heard the message?

Once you have figured that out, begin writing.

Be Clear: avoid technical terms and acronyms.

Concise: ideally one sentence, which takes 10-15 seconds to say.

Specific: address a particular challenge and audience.

Core messages should be few (no more than two to three) and generally no more than a sentence or two.

Example: “SOSventures accelerates startups with mentoring and finance.”

This exercise will help you stay focused on what is really important to your target audience. Make it easier for you to “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.”

A piece of cake!

Build Relationships

Now that you have your target audience and core messages nailed, you are ready to roll. Fire up the press release machine and let’s start pitching those journalists that will absolutely want to hear about your “game changing” product!

Not so fast!

Unlike advertising, companies do not pay directly for exposure that they achieve through PR. The articles, analyst reports and speaking opportunities garnered through PR are won by building relationships with targeted media influencers.

Through face-to face meetings and on going two-way communications, these influencers may be convinced that your company and its products and services are credible and important enough to have a positive impact on their audience.

Tips for building and conscientiously maintaining relationships with key industry influencers:


Try meet in person at least once.

Invest in just a few quality relationships.

Establish yourself as an expert and provide valuable insights/information on industry trends.

Be genuine.

Know the journalist’s “beat” (what they cover and write about).

Make sure your interests align.

Follow them on Twitter.

Comment on their articles.


Cold call

Be pushy

Waste time by pitching stories that they have no interest in.

In sum, nurture, nurture, nurture” and “give before you get”.

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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