PR and marketing is a costly process and at a time when the online world can often seem even more relevant than the real one, this process is also a lot more complex. Indeed, this is also an area in which many companies or products fail, for this strategy is usually central to the initial performance of any product or service. At the same time, while the principles of PR remain the same, incredible results can still be attained with a relatively small budget. In fact, there are many success stories which illustrate how a tight PR budget is by no means a limitation and even the most boring startups can achieve success with the right tactics.
As you know, the PR and marketing landscape has changed considerably in recent years with an online world providing easy access to a mainstream audience. At the same time, this ease of access has also increased competition across every industry and hence, there is now a lot more noise through which startups need to cut through in order to get noticed.
As already mentioned, it can seem surprising that even a seemingly boring startup can gain traction in a busy market while many of the best concepts may go unnoticed. Similarly, there are strategies and tactics which simply do not work anymore and PR firms are now required to pursue quite alternative techniques which are more likely to produce meaningful results.
That being said, here is precisely how these low profile startups use alternative methods to feature in National Press and other prominent publications:
How Startups Gain Traction with the National Press
Although PR firms are increasingly popular and necessary for startups wanting to get ahead, there are certain tactics and businesses who have excelled without any assistance at all. Here is a closer look at the most important aspects of gaining traction in the media and the best methods for approaching new media in the modern-day.
Establish a Meaningful Network
Although Reddit is now one of the most famous and prominent web pages on the internet, there was a time when the creators were desperately seeking coverage from a wider audience. In fact, describing Reddit to someone who has never used the platform is never easy, for this incredibly useful website has a tendency to sound boring and unnecessary.
At this time, Alexis Ohanian struck up a friendship with a writer for Wired as a means of establishing a meaningful network of contacts. Although Rachel Metz would indeed become a friend of the creator of Reddit, Ohanian would learn that there was no way for Metz to write about Reddit without the article coming across as being biased in some way. In this sense, you might think that this new would prove disappointing but on the contrary, an associate of Rachel Metz would later contact the creators of Reddit and suggest that they cover the platform in a feature article on Wired and later, Condé Naste Magazine.
Of course, there is an element of luck in this instance but the truth is, this is merely an example of what can happen as a result of establishing meaningful relationships. As opposed to a tacky email introduction, this is also a much more congruent way to pursue contacts and a PR strategy in general.
In case you might be asking yourself, establishing these relationships is a rather easy process and requires little more than a thoughtful approach in which you can seek to assist or advise a contact without expecting anything in return. As you might expect, this is also the best way to ensure a contact does not feel “used” and can genuinely trust in your approach.
Pay Attention to Blogging and Influencers
Tim Ferriss is a world-famous author who is well known for creating relationships with a network of bloggers and using this network to promote his books. While this may seem a little contrived, the relationships were meaningful and congruent in every way. As with the point above, the bloggers were happy to promote Tim’s books and this meaningful network would present many future opportunities.
In a similar sense, many businesses are now recognizing the importance of bloggers and influencers. After all, these highly regarded figures are a dream collaborator for PR firms and this is largely due to their highly interactive audiences. Furthermore, when bloggers get involved with a particular product or company, they tend to feel involved and responsible in some way for the outcome. For example, Eventbrite used a network of influential bloggers to catapult them into the minds of the National Press.
After all, when half of the tech blogging industry seemed to be talking about Eventbrite, this was an indication of newsworthy content. Although bloggers and influencers will usually require a certain fee for their assistance, this is usually a lot more affordable than paying for advertising space in a newspaper.
Remember that Press Releases are a Thing of the Past
In short, press releases are fast becoming a thing of the past. Yes, you will find them in certain areas of mainstream media or certain industries but really, there is no real purpose to these releases in a time when everyone and everything is already connected. In this regard, sending a press release can also seem like a very impersonal way to make contact and rather uninteresting next to alternative methods and new media.
Take social media for example; why distribute a mundane press release when you can publish an engaging video on social media which is more likely to capture the attention or imagination of an audience? Needless to say, video is just one option and there are many forms of content which can act as a press release while producing much better results. If there is a hugely unique or interesting aspect to a product or service, Viral Thread, Buzzfeed, and other viral websites are often more impactful than a standard press release. Furthermore, there are cost-effective ways to nurture future collaborations such as Medium, which is a creative place to publish a media kit.
While many products or startups can seem boring, this is also an opportunity to stand out and use creativity to step ahead of the competition.
Pay it Forward with Persistence and Quality
Gary Vaynerchuck is one of the leading motivational speakers and businessmen in the world. CEO of a leading company called Vaynermedia, the marketing guru is also well known for his methods when it comes to paying it forward. As his fan base will know, Gary often responds to the thousands of comments on social media every day and goes to every length to interact with fans he meets in person. We can see this through daily vlogs and his endless enthusiasm for giving out free information. That is to say, Vaynerchuck is always eager to inspire or encourage others to seek out their passion and unlike public figures in the same domain, he charges nothing for this content.
That being said, as Gary Vaynerchuck will also tell his audience, this is the approach which has taken him from unknown to the forefront of world business and marketing. Although his businesses are based on solid blueprints and strategy, we can clearly see how his efforts in paying it forward have brought millions of followers to his social media channels.
With this in mind, we can also see how Vaynerchuck used persistence and excellent content to propel his family wine business into the big time. As you know, creating content requires time rather than money and although his initial efforts could have been considered a “failure” at the time, his Wine Library channel would go on to be one of the most successful in the United States. Interestingly, this YouTube channel was receiving less than one hundred views per day for a prolonged period but with persistence and a focus on quality, it would now seem that success was inevitable.
Document the Process (No Need to Spend Time Creating)
You may be familiar with the rise of daily vlogs and how many of the most famous online influencers are incredibly consistent when it comes to publishing content. Startups can learn from this rise in the sense that the technique is based on documenting the journey instead of focusing on creativity. The above mentioned Gary Vaynerchuck is well known for this approach and companies can certainly benefit, for documenting a journey requires very little effort in comparison with creating a story of any kind.
With this in mind, startups can gain excellent traction online by documenting their journey from designing the company all the way up to the launch. As you know, video and reality content is still viral and documenting the trials and tribulations is an excellent way to gain support and publicity. Although it may seem like a glamorous example, every reality music show from X Factor to America’s Got Talent uses this very same approach. After all, by the time they have documented the first auditions and established the eventual winner, this figure is already a household name and known to an extremely large target market.
Tell Relevant Stories and Keep Trending
Reddit is one of many sites that rank content based on popularity and virality. That is to say, the users vote on this content which means that readers can be sure that the most prominent pieces are indeed the most interesting. For this reason, platforms such as Reddit offer startups access to trending content and feedback should they need any. In the case of publishing on Reddit, if this content is deemed popular, this can be a potent source of traffic and exposure for a startup.
On a slightly different note, savvy PR firms are also experienced in terms of using these platforms to identify trending topics of stories. As a rule, creating content based on a trending topic of a relevant story is a more powerful way to attract the attention of the public.
Professional marketers often refer to this as creating content “around the peg” and unlikely startups are often born from this process alone. For example, Neil Patel, a world-famous marketing guru, is a huge believer in following trends. Although he recommends that every startup should remain aware of emerging trends, he consistently demonstrates the power of this very tactic. For example, five years ago, infographics emerged as a popular content marketing tactic and when Patel decided to focus on infographics, traffic to his website increased by more than 193%.
Moral of the story: produce relevant content and stay aware of popular trends.
Be Disruptive and Demand Attention
Simply put, disruptive innovation is a technique which creates something special without following any set of rules or guidelines you would normally associate with similar businesses.
Although AirBnB and Uber are not necessarily “boring” startups, these are both fine examples of small budget concepts which received widespread media coverage. For the most part, the reason for this coverage was due to the disruptive nature of the technology and how the businesses made no apologies for infiltrating a market and taking business away from major players. That is to say, the hotel industry has suffered immensely in the face of Air BnB’s success and likewise, taxi companies continue to go out of business because of Uber.
As already mentioned, many of these new technology companies are not privy to the financial backing of existing businesses but they use disruptive innovation to force their way into the minds of publishers and prominent media.
Never Settle and Always Pursue More Press
“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind Apple, was always adamant that entrepreneurs and businesses should never rest on the laurels. In other words, he felt that too many businesses made the same mistake of depending and relying on previous success instead of pursuing even greater heights. As outlined in his famous speech at Stanford University, this is also part of a common belief with new businesses that once success is achieved and the media have given covered to a particular achievement, there should always be an emphasis on gaining further publicity instead of basking in the glow of what has already passed.
Taking the Alternative Path
Although it may seem as though hundreds of publishers suddenly decide to cover a particular business or concept, this is actually the result of an enormous effort. For example, when Elon Musk decided to proceed with a blueprint to create underground tunnels to solve traffic problems, he used some rather strange tactics to raise finances and attract the attention of the national press. Indeed, The Boring Company decided to sell flamethrowers and a range of quirky goods as a marketing and financing tactic. Yes, Elon Musk is often invited onto many prominent channels but the truth is, this alternative approach stands out as a talking point which brings further attention to the main objective. Needless to say, this was also a very affordable way to gain publicity, after all, the products raised millions of dollars.
How to Initiate a Strategy for featuring in the National Press
Sure, there are ways and methods when it comes to approaching the PR side of a startup. While conventional press releases may work, the above tactics are often more effective. Furthermore, the following steps are a more detailed view at the general strategy and what this process will look like. That being said, this is merely a micro guide as to how these startups approach PR and principles which tend to nurture a more positive outcome.
1. The Strategy
Unfortunately for most startups, too many of them pay little attention to the way in which they contact media or reporters. In most cases, this involved finding the first email address available, usually an editor, and pasting a generic email requesting coverage.
The truth is, this is likely alienate the recipient and leave them with no desire to continue the communication. On the other hand, if you take time to research the reporter and investigate in terms of what interests them, you can tailor this email in such a way that it feels personal and important to the reader.
Moreover, you should have to hand precisely what the reporter needs to know including the potential headline of an article and a cohesive storyline which sounds attractive. In order to create this email, you should take time to craft the piece and remove jargon wherever possible.
2. Making the Pitch
Once again, there is no point reaching out to a target market who has no interest in the subject matter. With this in mind, addressing a broad market is a bad idea and this is usually considered spam by the reader. One way to ensure the message is received by the right readers is to profile the market and ensure that you are addressing the right people in the first place.
3. Staying Organized and Record Contacts
Spreadsheets are an excellent way to stay organized and these should be used to record all contacts as well as important communication. In other words, take note of reporters who respond favourably and record these interactions so that they can be used again and again.
4. Create Relationships with Reporters
As with the bloggers, you should seek to establish meaningful relationships with reporters instead of bombarding them with requests. After all, a meaningful email is much more likely to stand out in an inbox full of requests. For this reason, meeting in person is also an excellent idea and events, in particular, are an ideal stage on which to meet these individuals in a social environment.
5. Handle Rejection and Differentiation
As a rule, reporters are always looking for something different and a unique selling point with a genuine story. If you can help craft this story, reporters are more likely to take interest and this is certainly true for the fact that most interactions are rather dull and uninteresting for reporters.
On the other hand, in the case of rejection of lack of interest, avoid responding in a negative manner. After all, you may need their help with an alternative story in future and negativity does little more than leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
Note on National Press Vs. Smaller Publications
Featuring in the National Press is a big deal and certainly, a benchmark which businesses should keep in mind but at the same time, there are other methods which can be much more effective. For example, PR firms will often target several smaller agencies or outlets instead of the national media and this can prove much more impressive results. In this sense, audiences are now a lot more fragmented so the smaller audiences can be niche and more relevant. With this in mind, many of the low profile startups will target smaller outlets and these are also a lot more affordable when any cost is involved.
Employing a PR Firm for Startups
Many savvy entrepreneurs will take on the role of PR and marketing with vigour but in truth, this is an incredibly time-consuming process which can take their focus away from important parts of the business. For this reason, PR firms are often considered an affordable way to ensure the right tactics and methods are being used to promote the startup when it takes to the market. Furthermore, the absence of this responsibility is great peace of mind for startups who wish to focus on the product or business and leave the PR process to the experts.
As you can see, there are many underlying principles which boring startups will use to gain traction in the mainstream. Although there are costs associated with some of these, they are more than affordable next to conventional PR tactics. In fact, when you consider the immense time and effort needed to pursue a PR strategy for a startup, employing a PR firm is arguably the best money you will ever spend. That being said, the choice is yours.