Jennifer Spencer PR

So, you’ve started a company that’s going to change the world, or at the least, your industry. You’ve got a great story to tell about why you do what you do, but for all you know you’re shouting it into an empty auditorium. When you are first starting out it can be difficult to grow an audience that’s interested in hearing your story. This is where PR becomes essential to your business.

Many startups think of PR as a free way to get publicity and talk about their product, but that’s not how PR should be viewed. You see, journalists usually couldn’t care less about your product and they especially don’t care about your bottom line (unless of course your story is about how much profit you are making). So, approaching a journalist or publication with a press release that is product focussed will likely get you thrown out the door (and your press release thrown in the trash). There are some exceptions to that rule, but they are few and far between.

PR can definitely be effective for business growth, so as an entrepreneur, how do you get publications to take notice and recognize your company’s unique story? Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to garner attention and not make journalists feel harassed in the process:

1. There are some pretty cool, groundbreaking products out there, and if yours isn’t one of them, don’t focus on it. Focus instead on how your company or product is changing/helping the world/your industry or what inspired you to create the company in the first place. Talk about the effect, not the cause.

2. Focus on sharing knowledge from your area of expertise to bring value to readers. We’re all inundated with a lot of information and advertisements these days and if a piece of content doesn’t bring value into our lives we’re unlikely to absorb it. Focus on what you know and how it can help others.

3. Build relationships with individual journalists early by conversing with them often. It’s a little big headed to think that your product launch or update will suddenly be interesting to TechCrunch or Fast Company when you haven’t bothered to build relationships with more targeted publications. You should be building a list of journalists and publications that are interested in writing about your industry right from the word ‘go’. Introduce yourself and your company in a casual way (by keeping point #1 in mind) so that when you’ve got big news you’ve already created some great connections.

4. Write press releases that are short, concise and interesting. Journalists read piles and piles of press releases every day and you’ll really need to impress them to get their attention. Ed Zitron has some great advice on how to get your press releases noticed once they are written. Don’t have anything interesting to write about? Don’t send a press release.

5. PR is a long term strategy, not a silver bullet. It’s very rare that a single story in a single publication will cause sustainable growth. That’s why building relationships with journalists and publications is so important; so you receive the repeated coverage necessary in order to make PR effective.

6. There is a lot of advice out there about when to send your press release, and it all pretty much says the same thing. As a result, something interesting has happened; everyone sends their press releases at the same time and publications are flooded with them, making it even harder to get your story noticed. So stop following the advice when you search “When should I send my press release?” and send it when it’s most relevant, while still giving the journalist enough time to research and write a story.

I hope that this list of tips has gotten you one step closer to amazing journalistic coverage and a corresponding boom in business, but if it doesn’t, keep in mind that all companies have to start somewhere. Keep going and keep telling your story. You never know what might garner interest. If you believe that you have a unique story to tell, eventually someone else will too.

Looking for a good holiday read on the topic? I highly recommend checking out these books: