How to Build a Winning PR Strategy as a Tech Startup

By Rudi Davis Published: 13 October, 2016 Last updated: February 18th, 2022 at 10:40 am

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Tech is an unpredictable, chaotic industry. Innovative technologies, scrappy entrants, and colossal investments all serve to disrupt the status quo on a regular basis. In light of these circumstances, 90% of tech startups fail.

One method entrepreneurs can use to boost their tech startup’s odds of success is to execute strategic PR initiatives designed to build a positive reputation for their company. So effective is this technique that tech entrepreneurs as prodigious as Bill Gates have stated, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” Richard Branson even claimed that, “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” The stats back up this sentiment. Fast Company reported that the conversion rate of PR is 10-50 times that of traditional advertising. Huffington Post likewise stated that PR is 88% more effective than content marketing. A company that generates this level of ROI through PR can make the difference between succeeding or failing as a tech startup. But to reap those benefits, tech entrepreneurs need to leverage the principles that support a winning PR strategy.

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1- Understand the value of strategy in PR.

A winning PR initiative can generate an enduring positive impact on your company in a multitude of key outcomes that contribute to better business performance. Examples include publicizing a major new feature your startup has rolled out, raising investor awareness about an upcoming attractive seed round, or initiating meaningful discussions on industry trends that establish you as a thought leader and benefit your brand by association. Conversely, a losing PR initiative gains no traction until it peters out, and can sometimes even backfire and tarnish the reputation of your company.

The strategy behind your PR initiative is chiefly responsible for the outcome. If you build and execute a winning PR strategy, there is a good chance you will see a massive return to your business. On the contrary, a flawed PR strategy will cause the campaign to fail and risk damaging your company’s reputation. That is to say, there is a risk involved with PR, but also a huge potential for upside. Fortunately there are certain principles that can be learned from and applied to a PR strategy that maximize the likelihood your PR initiatives will result in a winning outcome.

2- Define your media goals.

Media goals are objectives you aim to achieve through your PR initiatives. These can be things like building investor awareness, customer awareness, the brand behind your company, or rapid growth. Your media goals inform your PR strategy because they determine the angle behind your announcements and which kinds of publications you reach out to. If your tech startup is an online marketplace for secondhand clothes and your number one media goal is to raise investor awareness, then your PR campaigns should be designed to secure coverage on publications with a readership base of that particular audience. You would also want to highlight to that audience why the company concerned is an attractive investment proposition. This would likely be a different set of publications and a different angle than PR initiatives designed to raise awareness with a potential customer segment.

Your media goals can be further broken down into the short, medium, and long term. Maybe your short term media goal is to build brand awareness with a previously unreached target audience, while your long term media goal is to establish your company as the leading authority on topic x. Design your PR strategy accordingly. By defining your media goals outright, you will be able to craft a PR strategy to maximize the likelihood that you will see the kind of return you are ultimately aiming for.

3- Identify your target audience and research their most read publications.

Who do you aim to reach with your PR initiative? The more narrowly you can define your target audience, the better chances you have of reaching them. Identifying your target audience as 21-35 year old professionals is not as effective as further defining them as 21-35 year old male lawyers. With this additional information, you can tailor the content of the PR campaign to appeal more to that specific demographic. Broader audiences are harder to reach and engage because you have to settle for appealing to the common interests shared by the larger group. The broader the group, the broader the interest, and the higher number of players there’ll be competing for that interest. This makes these spaces more difficult to secure coverage in, which is why it’s often best to define your target audience as narrowly as possible so that you can design your PR campaigns to appeal specifically to that particular group.

Once you know who your main target audience is, research and regularly read the publications they frequent. Observe and cultivate a rich understanding of the key trends and advances toward future breakthroughs mentioned in those publications. Topics written about on a recurring basis are a solid indicator that the audience is interested in that subject. Likewise, articles that rack up abnormally high page views, shares, and comments are also probably significant to that audience. Figure out what kind of content those publications typically publish, the format of that content, and trends in their editorial calendar so that you can account for that information in your PR strategy. Remember that staying informed requires you to read these publications on a daily basis, as the knowledge status quo changes as rapidly as the technologies it concerns.

4- Frame the angle behind your newsworthy announcements so it plays into the interests of your target audience.

When your company has an announcement to make, first evaluate how newsworthy it is from the journalistic perspective. According to, newsworthiness is defined by 5 factors: timing, significance, proximity, prominence, human interest. Understanding how well your company’s announcements meets this criteria will provide you with a realistic idea of which kinds of publications you should reach out to. If on a 10 point scale of newsworthiness, your company’s announcement is a 9/10, then you can design your PR initiatives with the intention of securing coverage on major publications like Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. If you assess that you are only a 3/10, it’s best you shoot for coverage on industry vertical publications.

Once you have identified how newsworthy your announcement is, you can then identify which journalists to reach out to. Explain in the pitch why your announcement is relevant to the beat the journalist covers, and why their audience will be interested in reading about it. Highlight the key industry trends and advances toward future breakthroughs that your announcement correlates with. Don’t pitch press releases to journalists that don’t match their criteria for a good story or you’ve wasted their time and yours.

5- Aim to secure continuous media coverage by authoring guest posts.

Even if your startup has no newsworthy announcements to make, you can still keep the PR train rolling by writing guest posts. Guest posts are non-promotional, educational content written by experts on key industry trends. They are a powerful PR tool you can leverage to grow your reputation as a thought leader, contribute valuable discourse that advances the audience’s understanding of important topics in your field, and increase the likelihood that your startup will receive meaningful media coverage in the future. Consider the topics that your target audience finds compelling and then draw from your past experiences to contribute valuable commentary to the discussion. Ask yourself: what knowledge do I have access to that my target audience would find compelling? The goal is to articulate insights that your audience will get value out of reading.

Take famed entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who regularly discusses a variety of cutting-edge industry topics on a range of media outlets. He frequently appears in various media channels to share his insights on relevant industry issues, from venture capital to competition in business, based on the experiences he’s acquired through his extraordinarily successful legacy as a major Silicon Valley player. Each topic he addresses is designed to further the audience’s understanding, and likewise develops Thiel’s public image as an industry thought leader. By extension, his companies become associated with the reputation Thiel has established for himself, which helps them prosper.

As your professional credibility grows overtime through guest posts, you will become recognized as a thought leader in your industry. Journalists, influencers, investors, and customers will want to hear what you have to say because you have cemented a positive reputation for yourself on well-respected publications. If you are seen as a go-to figure in the media for topic x, then that social proof will also become associated with your company’s image by extension. For your tech startup, this paves the path for future media coverage. If a journalist sees that you have been featured on well-respected publications, they will recognize you as a thought leader whose announcements are to be taken seriously. Likewise, the audience will be much more receptive to listening to your startup’s announcements because you have already established that you know what you’re talking about.
By following the above guidelines, you can build a winning PR strategy that secures your tech startup meaningful coverage in the media.