As a brand-new startup, you don't know what you don't know. There's a steep learning curve when it comes to mastering the ins and outs of running a business, especially when it comes to public relations.
If you're unfamiliar with the world of PR, you may not fully understand how to build media relationships and pitch yourself to reporters. However, as your business grows and becomes more established, you gradually learn how to get more press coverage and awareness for your company.
To help you get there faster, we asked a group of successful entrepreneurs to share the lessons they've learned about PR that a new startup may not have considered. Here's how they've leveraged those lessons to improve their own PR efforts.
Develop a unified brand message.
Before you can create an effective public relations strategy, you need to figure out the brand message you want to share with the world. Matt Diggity, founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, recommends developing a consistent message that coincides with your company's values while also resonating with the public.
"Each employee at your company needs to buy into the message, as each employee is a representative of your company," says Diggity. "By involving the whole company in the public relations process, you will create a unified message and brand image."
Know what makes your business newsworthy.
Reporters won't cover anything that isn't truly newsworthy and of interest to their audience. That's why you need a thorough understanding of what makes your business newsworthy in the eyes of the press, says Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder of Marquet Media, LLC.
"Think about your offerings, value proposition and why the media should care about you and your story," Marquet explains. "Once you know what makes your business newsworthy, it will be a lot easier to draft a pitch that gains media attention."
Find the right media outlets to target.
Some brands take a "spray and pray" approach to public relations -- in other words, they send out their pitch to as many outlets as possible, regardless of whether that publication would even be interested in their story. Matthew Podolsky, founder of Florida Law Advisers, P.A., advises against this approach if you want to generate the right kind of coverage for your business.
"By speaking to everyone you are, in essence, speaking to no one," Podolsky says. "Identify the target publications, media outlets and journalists you want to share content through. Go after the press that will give you the reach you really want."
Track your PR efforts.
It's often said that you can't improve what you don't measure, and that's especially true for your PR efforts. Matt Wilson, co-founder of Under30Experiences, reminds startups that not all press is created equal, so you need a system in place to track the results of your efforts.
"Getting on television is great, but how do you know if it's converting to sales?" says Wilson. "How can you offer something to people that drives them to your website, and gives you permission to contact them? This way you will know if your PR budget is worth it. Calculate conversion rates and your customer lifetime value to judge the effectiveness of your efforts."
Set realistic media goals.
Before you start your business's PR journey, you should set a few small, realistic goals first, says Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms.
"If you don't know what you're aiming toward, your vision will be confusing and fuzzy," Wells explains. "It's easier to pick publications and a narrative with goals already set in place to follow."
Create original, research-based content.
Journalists love unique statistics and data to include in their stories. Conducting your own original research to pitch out to the press not only improves your chances of coverage, but also has a long-term benefit for your content marketing strategy.
"Original research people can refer to goes a long way," says Joey Bertschler, advisor at bitgrit. "People still reach out to us about reports and articles that show up high on Google because of the inbound links. The creation can be tedious, but it pays off. Plus, long-forms, keynotes and e-books on your research can turn into posts, audio and video snippets across social and blogs."
Integrate PR with your overall brand and content strategy.
According to Stan Garber, co-founder and president of Scout RFP, your PR efforts are a critical channel for amplifying the voice of your customers, employees and company. Therefore, they should be integrated with your overall brand and content strategy.
"To improve traction, build a network of journalists, nurture relationships with key supporters and bring a unique perspective to the table, elevating your team as experts and thought leaders who can comment on varied topics," Garber says.