PR is one of the most effective ways to promote your start-up or small business. Without the financial outlay of advertising, there’s lots you can do on a tight budget, from building your social media community, to writing articles for relevant media, or announcing the latest company news.
As a result, PR is often one of the first tools that start-ups turn to when they’re looking to raise their profile - and rightly so. But, while it may seem straightforward to the outside observer, PR can be tricky to perfect, with experts spending many years honing their skills.
As a result, there are a number of common pitfalls that start-ups fall for time and again. Here’s our top six and how to make sure you avoid them:
• Expect miracles You may think your business is the best thing since sliced bread, but journalists are a notoriously cynical bunch and to them it’s just another start-up (sorry!) Expecting to appear on the front page of a national newspaper immediately after launching will only lead to disappointment, so remember to be realistic and patient about the results. Yes, you might get lucky and catch the eye of a top journalist, but you should also be focusing on achieving coverage in various local, trade or specialist titles to begin with. PR is a long-term investment and if you stick with it you’ll start to see the momentum building.
• Just talk about how great your product is Unless you’ve created a flying car or teleportation device, chances are journalists won’t want to write about it. If you want product advertising, you have to pay for it and PR is generally much more subtle. Instead, think about the issues that your product is solving and the news value of those issues, before building stories and article ideas to address those. So if, for example, you make sunglasses, you can talk about eye health in the sun, or holiday fashion ideas. That’s not to say product PR isn’t important for certain more consumer-focused sectors, but even then you need to put it into context – showing why your product is relevant, and why now.
• See it as somebody else’s responsibility Many business owners think they can hire a PR agency or freelancer and leave them to it, expecting the coverage (and leads) to start rolling in. But in reality, PR works best as a collaborative process, when the whole business – particularly senior leaders – are engaged in making it work. After all, you are the face of the business, you need to own its story. PR professionals are very useful middle men (and women) that can advise on strategy, messaging and outreach, but ultimately the media want to hear from you. Just think about some of the most successful entrepreneurs – Richard Branson, Elon Musk, James Dyson – they all know how to promote themselves and their businesses. So don’t think you can take a back seat and things will just happen.
• Set sales targets for PR PR can generate sales – sometimes - but it is not first and foremost a lead generation tool, so don’t use it as your only way of generating business. It forms an important part of the marketing mix, to raise brand awareness, audience trust and give you authority with your target audience, but it needs to work alongside your other marketing and sales efforts to actually get people through the door. So again, it’s about being realistic and avoiding targets that you’re never going to hit.
• Send out a press release every week When people think of PR, they often think of press releases, the age-old, catch-all media relations tool. But, in a lot of cases, businesses are writing press releases on things that really don’t warrant it, or setting themselves a target to send out x number of press releases per month, when they don’t actually have anything to say – a waste of everybody’s time. Press releases should only be used when you have some news to announce, whether that’s a product launch (if it is particularly new or innovative), some new research results, or a big company milestone. So use them sparingly!
• Talk in jargon and hyperbole Practically every industry has its own lingo, while business in general can be guilty of some terrible waffle. But far from sounding impressive, overly technical language and jargon sounds unclear, vague and evasive. And your audience will switch off pretty quickly – especially if it’s a journalist. So strip it all out and talk in plain English if you want to catch their attention. Similarly, avoid hyperbolic language and exaggerated claims. Stick to the facts or you’ll soon lose the respect and trust of your audience.
Avoid these pitfalls and you’ll be well on your way to generating some fantastic positive PR for your small business or start-up. And while there’s lots you can do on your own, working with specialist freelance support will ensure you navigate the PR and media landscape even more effectively, without having to stretch your budget to a full agency. Feel in need of some help? Then drop us a line to find out more firstname.lastname@example.org