You have finally launched your first product after spending years in solitude creating or coding and now you want to shout your announcement from the rooftops. But wait! Choosing the correct course of action is essential if you want the media to pay attention to you.
Too much time spent constantly emerged in a project can give us an extremely biased view about its importance to the general public. Everyone thinks that their new product or service is the best, most amazing idea which is going to change the world. However, when planning a P.R campaign it is important to go down the path which has the best chance of getting your company media coverage.
Experience shows us that it is not always the most obvious methods that are the most successful. Journalists assess the value of an announcement based on much more than the story itself, looking at the founding team, company ambition, company design and finally the relevance of the announcement based on current trends in the startup ecosystem.
According to Robert Wynne effective P.R includes “rooting out the most scintillating, defensible story angles (this requires some elbow grease) and matching those up with the most receptive outlets…”
Companies generally choose to go down one of two paths:
Press releases are concisely written communications which are sent to journalists to announce something newsworthy. Generally, announcements include company launches, product updates, funding announcements, milestones, significant hires or acquisitions. Have a look at PR Newswire for some recent examples.
These newsworthy announcements are compelling stories, often tied to a current trend or a larger conversation taking place, that are of interest to the public.
The startup ecosystem is extremely competitive and journalists are not obliged to offer coverage to stories which they don’t feel contribute to the wider conversation. Assessing whether your announcement is really important to a wider audience at that time will save you wasting time and energy writing and pitching weak stories.
Journalists and investors have become desensitized to overly promotional press releases which exaggerate a startup or product’s importance with words like “disrupt”, “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking”. The importance given to your announcement will depend on the story itself and how newsworthy it is for a general audience.
Even though your announcement might be a huge win for your company, it’s importance and significance will be based on your competitors and the industry as a whole. This is especially true for funding announcements, as although $500K may be a huge amount of money for your bootstrapped startup, a quick look at Techcrunch will show that most funding rounds that get picked up are for $2M or more.
Guest articles are pieces which are either authored or co-authored by the CEO, founder or another leading role in a company. They focus on a wider topic or theme which the author feels they have something interesting to contribute on.
Founders write thought leader articles when they are proactively looking to develop their reputation as an expert and are hoping to blaze the trail for future coverage.
Unlike press releases, the aim of guest articles is not to directly promote your product or service. Making a name for yourself with regular contributions about an area of expertise is a great way to build ‘social proof’ for your company.
Potential clients and investors alike are likely to search online for information they can find about your company and founders, and the more they find, the more value they will give to your product or service.
When choosing the topic for your guest article, your first step should always be to ask yourself these simple questions:
- Has this theme been covered before? (If yes, are you taking a new angle?)
- What is the problem and how is it being solved? (There has to be a reason for people to spend the time reading your article. Are people learning something new and valuable?)
- Am I adding to the wider conversation? (If you are stating the obvious, or telling people things they already know, the article will not get picked up)
- Is this article promotional? Do I mention my own product within the text? ( Aside from the author byline, you should avoid mentioning your own product.)
- Who are my audience? ( This will define the tone of your article. If your topic is very technical or niche, then you should aim for industry specific publications.)
If you are stuck for ideas, have a look at what your competitors and peers are publishing, and then try to pick a new angle. Have a look at your own product or service and assess which trends it fits into, maybe you can comment on wider trends taking place in your industry.
If you are still left with a blank sheet of paper think back to your experiences as an entrepreneur and the journey you have taken to where you are now. It’s been a long road and you are sure to have some experiences to share (good and bad) which could benefit the wider community as a whole.
Remember that you should never write for the sake of writing. Every piece should have a clear argument and offer take-aways with some form of actionable advice for the reader. Leading publications receive hundreds of guest articles and blog posts every day, so if it is obvious to the editor that you have not given the article 100% of your energy, and are simply trying to raise brand awareness they will click delete without a seconds hesitation.
Whether the article is written by yourself, or by someone else in your name, anything you post will have your name branded on it for eternity, and the internet never forgets, so be sure that your message is in line with your company aims and values, or it could come back to bite you some time in the future.
Taking the extra time to plan out your PR campaign, and the best tactic to choose at this stage of your company’s progression, will dictate your likelihood of success as a whole. Just because you don’t have an announcement now, doesn’t mean that you won’t have a great announcement which is worthy of attention in the near future. Be realistic about your chances of gaining coverage, and focus your full attention on whichever method you decide to employ, then sit back and wait patiently for the results to roll in!
That said, if you don’t get picked up this time, don’t lock yourself in your apartment with chocolates, tissues and playlist of teary 80s ballads on repeat just yet. Gather your team together, brew a big pot of coffee and get back to the drawing board for the next campaign.