We believe that companies should primarily focus on their business goals and things that help them achieve those. The same applies to PR and the media: leave vanity fairs to others and focus on the stuff that matters.
Public relations mean utilizing the existing media channels and publications to spread your message to a much larger audience than you might have by yourself. It’s different from advertising, in fact, in any top-tier publication these areas couldn’t be more separated from each other.
Technically, the audience figures might be the same. People tend to block ads, experience “banner blindness” and don’t really trust them. But they trust high-profile publications and even particular reporters they might get familiar with. That’s why you might need PR – because people would trust your message more.
Reporters are always looking for the next story to write. They investigate, they source news, but at the end of the day they often cover announcements shared with them secretly in advance (you can learn more about how news stories are written here). This is your chance to connect to them, pitch your story and get covered. When you do this, you have to compete with hundreds of other stories and pitches – so yours have to be compelling.
Your stories might come in different forms: company profiles, interviews, funding announcements, expert opinions. What matters is the message you’d be spreading about yourself and who would read it. You should be the first to write down the story of yourself and your company, memorize it and then utilize every interaction with the reporters to tell it. This story should be aligned with your business objectives and make your project more valuable and interesting to a particular audience you want to target.
PR is useful for three particular goals.
There are special cases, such as protecting the reputation of your company during a crisis, but most businesses primarily employ PR for these goals and it’s not a coincidence – this is where it shines. Let’s dig into these reasons one by one.
PR can help you build both awareness and legibility to attract and secure customers and partners. It highly depends on what kind of customers you serve and might be looking for. If you have a tech product, publications on relevant outlets, e.g. TechCrunch or 9to5Mac might give you an initial boost of visitors but it’s not a sustainable long-term channel. Instead, these publications instill trust in the audience – it’s like they share their reputation with you.
And that is particularly helpful for high-profile B2B sales. It’s one thing to be selling affordable products to single developers and it’s a completely different beast to win 7-figure contracts with a CIO of a big company. You need them to know you, to know about you and trust that you won't disappear or might cause them unnecessary risks.
If you want to raise funding, media might help you generate awareness and even FOMO if you get mentioned on top-tier media outlets. Investors read it and might either get interested and reach out by themselves cold or that would play for you in the future when they’re offered an introduction by someone in your mutual network.
In fact, I’ve personally witnessed startups that just announced their recent funding round to be bombarded by requests from people who wanted to squeeze in.
Media publications often act as a good validator that you’re a legit company and have enough funds to pay them at least for some time – the venture-backed startups space is pretty chaotic. It also helps when people can show the article to their partners and/or family and explain why the hell are they leaving a good job for a company they have never heard about.
Just like you wouldn’t buy traffic for a bad landing page, there’s no sense in running full-time media communications if you’re unprepared. Possible future publications have to be able to bring something to you – and you should be able to harness that.
Focus on building your product, nailing your vision, and writing down your story. Cover all the basics, from a nice website to a thought-out pitch of your company.
As your company becomes larger, the focus of PR and media communications inevitably changes from quantity to quality. And PR itself turns into table stakes. On one hand, it’s easier to explain who you are, on the other you have to ensure you’d be telling the right message. If you don’t do it yourself, others will form an image for your company that you’ll probably disagree with. That’s why at this stage you should communicate proactively and build relationships with the reporters and the media in advance, so when the time comes, it’d pay off.