“I’ve turned my great idea into a business, but how do I get people to notice it?”
It’s a problem that startups in Australia grapple with every day. A fully-fledged advertising campaign is usually far too expensive for entrepreneurs who have started their business on a shoestring.
More often than not, the answer is public relations. At its core, PR is a conduit for communication between a brand and its customers, or potential customers. For bootstrapped companies, it’s cheaper than advertising and more effective at making people take notice of your great work.
For many startups it’s important to hire a PR agency for that initial big bang launch, especially if the idea is disruptive and will cause some shockwaves in the industry you are entering. You want to maximise the launch, and have thousands streaming to your website, store, or service on day one. An effective and targeted PR campaign can create that buzz and demand, but don’t be scared to try and go it alone in the early days. There are some instances where you don’t need to go out looking for an agency to do it for you.
The first step is to figure out your key messages. These are already lurking around, hidden in an email somewhere, in your business plan, or in your headspace. You just might not know it yet. For each conversation you have about your new business you need to have 2-3 main points you want to get across. These will vary greatly for business to business, but should always hone in on your core offering or unique proposition.
The next step is to figure out where your potential customers are. What do they read, watch, or listen to? Make a list of the top media outlets you want to be featured in. Read them, watch them, and listen to them. Make note of a few journalists that talk about the industry you operate in, and may be interested in talking about your startup. Find out their email address (many print it at the bottom of their stories now), their Twitter handle, or call the switchboard of the media outlet they work at. From here it’s not as scary as you might think. Show them how passionate you are and tell them your story. Journalists aren’t evil, they’re just people!
There are of course times when this is out of your reach. You might already be burning the midnight oil trying to get your business ready for launch day. Your idea might be so huge that hiring an agency would tell the story to many more people than you could do yourself. If you decide to outsource the PR function of your business, there are a few things to look for:
* Flexible payment structures. An agency with rigid fees and a minimum monthly retainer amount are unlikely to cater well for startups.
* Experts in social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are becoming increasingly important ways to get your message out there.
* Experience with entrepreneurial startups. It’s a whole different ball game promoting a startup to a multi-billion dollar company that has been around for decades. Make sure the agency has experience in the right field.
Whether you go it alone, or look to an agency, the PR function is core to the successful launch of any startup. Communicating your innovation to as many people as possible will help ensure its commercial success.