What’s the ideal time for a company to start thinking about PR?
Our answer (of course) would be: From the very beginning. However, while your product might still be on the drawing board, with no full-time employees on your books or revenue being generated, actually engaging with a PR agency doesn’t make sense.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be working on your own PR already, though. There is plenty you can be planning, preparing and actually doing in order to facilitate future engagements with the media no matter what stage you are in your company’s journey.
What is the story behind what you are doing? Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’ when your idea took shape, or you decided to completely change your career and become an entrepreneur? While you may not think your personal tale is incredibly glamorous or interesting, it’s worth putting some effort into crystallising the narrative and figuring out your brand values right at the beginning, as these are going to be with you for the lifetime of your brand. Effective storytelling relies on a strong opening, so be prepared to spend time crafting it.
It’s going to be much easier to get people interested in your company if they already know your name and who you are. Get yourself along to relevant industry events, press the flesh and have plenty of business cards with you to give out. From these interactions you can meet the kind of people and companies that will potentially be your partners, customers, competitors and investors. The qualitative data you can gather at this stage will not only inform your new business and lead generation processes, but give you an idea of what media that cover your industry are interested in.
Read, watch and listen
It’s also very important to figure out what the relevant publications and outlets that cover your industry are talking about. Specialist trade publications, mainstream print media and broadcasters will all have their own view, but by consuming this content you will get a better idea of how your company fits in to the overall narrative. It’ll also help you figure out which journalists are covering this ‘beat’, how they present the subject matter and what resonates with their audience. This will serve as a great starting point for when you begin to have direct conversations with them.
You shouldn’t stop at being a passive consumer of relevant media, either. Share the best of the content through your social media channels, follow and engage with the originators of the content and those who are talking about it on these channels too. While putting yourself in the very middle of these conversations will take time and persistence, if you have some good opinions to share people will begin to know you as an expert in your field.
Have an opinion
Knowing your industry is one thing, having interesting or different opinions about it is quite another. You need to stay on top of industry trends and have a lot of conversations to develop really compelling standpoints, but with a little effort this will come. Then, be sure to communicate your opinions in a timely way – use your company blog, or use Medium or LinkedIn, and push your blogs through your social channels. If you’ve been doing a good job of networking and connecting with other industry thought leaders, then you’ll find that your opinions will be well shared. Good journalists will pick up on this, and start to look to you for ideas, inspiration and commentary.
Should media come to you for comment, then make yourself available. Also ensure that your company website has easily downloadable assets – a logo, headshots of the team and so on – and a prominently-displayed, dedicated email address for email enquiries. The easier you make the lives of the journalists, then the more likely they are to keep coming back to you.
There are some people who say that all publicity is good publicity. These people are wrong – if you need an example, just take a look at the story of Fling. You need to be careful that you think about your reputation and how to manage it well before you speak publicly – so while you should be safe enough talking about your industry through your blog and social channels, avoid more emotional subjects like politics, religion and so on. And if you want to be critical of companies and individuals within your industry sector, then make sure you are familiar with libel laws.
We’ll talk about when the right time is to engage a PR agency in a forthcoming blog post. If you think you are at that stage now, take a look at our Launchpad PR services for startups and get in touch.