Startups can do the job of raising awareness of their business in-house. All they need to do is put in a bit of time and creativity
PR can be a valuable tool in promoting your business. However, you must put a great deal of thought into the way you approach PR: it is really important, before plunging into a spate of activity and promotion, that you have an interesting story to tell.
Coverage in the press will raise awareness of your business. To a consumer, reading an article about your business in a well-regarded publication can indicate endorsement.
To budding entrepreneurs who have just established their startup, all minor achievements or successes are likely to equate to pivotal milestones. Whenever a milestone is reached, it is tempting to shout each success from the rooftops and send press releases out to every publication at every opportunity in a somewhat scattergun approach.
This can be an error, though. I would advise that you sit down and think about whether your achievements are significant and valuable enough to publicise. Given that there are thousands of business stories every day, ranging from large corporates launching new products to exciting young entrepreneurs that have caused a stir, a press release regarding the launch of your website is unlikely to capture the attention of a journalist.
So, how do you make your milestones newsworthy? How do you identify that angle that will capture people’s attention? You think outside the box. Think about what is trending in the press and how you can link your business to that angle.
Experiential marketing agency Cult Events, one of the Start-Up Loan Company’s recipients, have spent a great deal of time thinking about what angle will capture journalists’ attention. Hugo and Ian, the founders behind Cult, have decided to build memorable niche events, theming them around a concept relevant to current trends or brand campaigns. To help publicise Cult Events they have conceptualised Pisco Fuego, a pop-up Latin American dining experience which takes the pop-up trend back to its “blink and you’ll miss it” origins. These days, there are pop-ups that last for years, some that have developed into pop-up franchises and still more seem to scrawl the word pop-up on a chalkboard outside their restaurant in fear of missing out. Pisco Fuego will pop up for a few days at a time in various London locations, leaving people wanting to know and find out more. This story is far more likely to be picked up by journalists over an article about what Cult Events is, outlining the fact they are hosting an event.
Once you have the angle, then you can start utilising PR techniques. As a startup you are unlikely to have the required budget to allocate a substantial sum to PR, but with limited experience you may be tempted to approach a PR firm. In my experience, entering into lengthy retainers with PR firms isn’t necessarily the best option. There is no guarantee they will get you in the press. I learned the costly way when I established Hamilton Bradshaw that you can hire the best PR firm, but the lack of a decent story will result in you not making the papers.
If you are prepared to work hard, PR can be free. Undertake research on the internet. There are numerous free resources out there that provide advice on how best to devise a strategic PR campaign. Use all the contacts that you have in the industry. Work hard on producing concise and interesting press releases. Make direct contact with journalists. Partner with carefully selected complementary businesses. Cult Events has assisted at events at cost price when it knows that there will be press exposure at these events. One good media placement can lead to increased sales or growth. The PR around Cult Event’s Pisco Fuego has resulted in an increase in traffic to its website and 10% of these visitors have converted into ticket sales through its Facebook page. This is a great example as to how a well thought-out, thorough PR campaign can be cheap yet effective.
James Caan is chairman of the Start-Up Loans Company
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