The start-up scene in Australia is buzzing with amazing ideas and talent, but the stories of real success are few and far between because we either just don’t hear about them or they’ve fallen short of commercialisation as they can’t get noticed.
It’s no longer ‘build the business and they will come’. You have to get out there, tell everyone who you are and what you can do for them. And not just tell them, scream it from the top of your incubator until you’re sore in the throat.
I’ve met so many amazing startups who just don’t get how the media works, how to brand their startup, or what their story is. Over the past 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of avoidable PR crimes that start-ups make. Here are my top five.
1. Getting the timing wrong
The timing of your launch can make or break your start-up. I’ve seen so many start-ups fail just because of their timing, and just miss their shot.
You have to pick the perfect time to either launch your start-up, or pitch a story idea. If the timing is wrong, then you may as well have not bothered doing it at all.
A good tip is to pick a time when there isn’t a lot of breaking news coverage about your industry. This is critical for ensuring journalists will be interested in covering a new player entering the market.
When launching your start-up to the media, be aware of any activity from major competitors, industry developments and major political activity, like elections, that may impact your launch. Think strategically about whether these events could be used to your advantage or whether to stay clear.
2. Being boring
If you send a journalist an email just telling them that you have launched, you’ll probably not get the reaction you want.
Figure out what’s interesting about your startup. It may stem from your main goals and interests, but think unconventionally and come up with something new.
You can have dozens of newsy hooks if you really think about your business, your story, and how you can potentially help people with your new startup idea.
Use your news hook to grab the attention of journalists, and once you’ve got your foot in the door, you can reel them in.
3. Sending your story to every journalist
Hell hath no fury like a journalist scorned. And trust me, you don’t want to see one angry. It’s critical to do your research and send your release to the journalists who write about your industry and customers (and competitors). Journalists hate it when you waste their time!
Don’t just paste your release into an email and blind copy every journalist you know. Take the time to understand what the media you’re targeting covers and explain in an email why the news will be of interest to them. It may take longer, but it will prove more successful in securing stories about your startup.
4. Forgetting about the influencers
Don’t forget there are other people to target than just journalists. Think about social media influencers, bloggers or associations who can share your news.
It may be entertainment and lifestyle bloggers, or one of the growing tech based bloggers out there always looking for interesting stories to write about. Try contacting them!
Also, think about reaching out to industry bodies or an MP who is passionate about the type of issue your startup deals with.
5. Putting on the PR brakes
‘For goodness sake do not stop!’ I’ve yelled that a few times in my head.
There have been so many startups that I’ve worked with that think after a few mentions in the media that it is enough. Next minute, they are forgotten and all the brand awareness created gets blown away.
The news cycle is vigorous, and it takes time to become memorable in investors’ minds. Keep pitching stories, write articles and try and get them published, and definitely don’t stop trying. Even if you have been rejected by a journalist, don’t be put off. Find a new angle and write a new story to send to them.
Please don’t make the mistakes that so many start-ups struggle with. Use PR to get your name out there, attract new investors, and watch your start-up succeed.
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as influencers in their field. Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.