PR 101 for Start-Ups

Start-ups are an interesting breed when it comes to public relations and thought leadership. On one hand, they are in growth mode and have a lot of activity – and often great progress – to share, whether executive team hires, new office openings, major technology releases or industry partnerships. However, they are often trying to raise rounds of funding or boot-strap their growth without overspending, which can result in limited PR investment options.

I recently attended Boulder Start-Up Week and had the opportunity to hear from local early-stage company leaders and network with some impressive local entrepreneurs. While clearly of the innovation mindset and developing solid products and service offerings, many of them were unsure how to establish their brands without plunking down the equivalent of their quarterly operating budget for a big or trendy PR firm.

Instead of going with a discount PR shop or hiring an intern to manage PR, start-ups should consider a strategic, targeted PR program from an experienced PR partner. A focused, core PR program can help elevate a new brand while developing a voice in the marketplace. Here are some ideas:

— Get Your Brand Messaging Right – One of the keys to a successful PR and thought leadership campaign is the ability to clearly articulate what your business does, the demand it fulfills in the marketplace (including what problem or pain points it helps solve) and your main differentiators versus competitors. A sound PR team will take the time to get these elements right before engaging with media or industry analysts, including gaining consensus from the founders and/or senior leadership team, as the core messaging should be used across all marketing efforts for brand consistency.

— Commit to Your Audience – It may sound cliche, but if you’re trying to be everything to everyone, then you’re nothing to no one. Savvy buyers – whether enterprise or consumer – want to do business with companies that specialize in what they’re offering. They seek out the experts who can deliver real advice to match their needs. Take the time to identify which segments of the market you’re currently serving and squarely place your marketing emphasis there. It doesn’t mean you’ll never expand beyond the initial audience targets but it allows you to put a  stake in the ground and to build your business around specific buyer profiles, e.g., company size, buyer titles, vertical markets, etc.

— Showcase Real-World Case Studies – The best way to prove your product or service’s effectiveness and establish industry clout is to share success stories from users who trust your brand and can present real-world results. It is common with start-ups to showcase customers who have helped you evolve your product – these initial customers or beta users are often willing to tell their stories if you’ve been a solid partner that has helped them improve their business.

In the world of start-ups, PR should be an evolving initiative that helps the business progress by building clear market reputation and visibility. Founders and leadership teams will be best poised for a successful market entry if they focus on the core PR elements – the ones that are most impactful for startups looking to make it to the next stage of the game.

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