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PR Tips for Startups with Small Budgets

By September 2, 2016March 30th, 2017Guide to PR, Public Relations

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.

If you’re a marketing manager for a startup, you’re probably responsible for PR (as well as the company’s website, trade shows, email marketing, collateral, t-shirts, and anything else with a logo on it). You probably don’t have a budget for an expensive PR firm (one firm I interviewed said they don’t work for under $20,000/month), and yet part of your responsibility is to generate buzz about your company and product among the influencers in your industry.

Here are some tips and tools I’ve used to get press coverage and more for startups without hiring a PR firm.

  1. Use HARO. Help A Reporter Out is a free product offered by media database company Cision. It is a service writers use to look for sources for stories they are working on. You can sign up for the service and you’ll get emails with lists of “queries” every day. There won’t be one relevant to your business every day, but they will come around if you keep checking.
  2. Write about your industry, not your company. One thing I’ve found effective is to write blogs and whitepapers about industry trends, not about how great your technology is. I’ve had journalists approach our company as a source for a story because as they were researching a subject, our blog, whitepaper, or social post showed up. If we had simply been promoting our product, it is unlikely that they would have contacted us.
  3. Enter product reviews. Trade publications often have product reviews or awards contests. One tech company I worked for developed a product that was easy to ship, use, and review, and we received several reviews and awards. Awards are an especially valuable source of credibility. Reviewers often feel that they have to balance a product’s strengths and weaknesses, which can take away some of the impact. Awards are badges of honor, and having those badges on your company homepage builds trust and confidence.
  4. Build relationships with specific writers. Find writers that cover your industry and pick a few that you can contact in person. Start small, with publications that are more likely to be hungry for content. Once you get some coverage, when you contact other reporters and they research your site, they can see that you’re worth writing about. Make sure to ask journalists what kinds of stories they are working on or looking for–don’t immediately go into pitch mode. Muck Rack can be a great way to build relationships with journalists. Writers use it to create profiles and let the world know what they are writing about. You can set alerts so that you’ll be notified if someone mentions your business or industry.
  5. Don’t brag. At one of the first startups I worked for, a writer told me “If I hear one more company say they are going to disrupt something I’m going to scream.” You can’t legitimately claim victory in advance of actual results. The fact that your company thinks it’s going to be next big thing is not news. Every company believes that or they would not have started in the first place.
  6. Publish to LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups. Publishing your educational (non-promotional material) in LinkedIn is a great way to get your content shared and noticed by influencers in your industry. Many LinkedIn Groups are joined by all kinds of industry stakeholders that are there to keep abreast of developments in and around their industries. In addition to publishing, commenting on relevant posts by others can help build awareness and even generate leads.

PR for startups can be tough. You’re looking to get noticed in a world of much larger companies and brands that spend tons of money to command the lion’s share of attention. It is possible to get coverage, even with a small budget, with the right strategy and tools.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.