Dear Startups, Don’t Make PR Only About You

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I was recently invited to host a PR workshop for a group of TiE and NetApp Excellerator startups. I have been doing these workshops for a while for NetApp Excellerator, Silicon Valley Bank and the San Francisco Landing Pad of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade). At this last event, the audience was comprised of founders and execs from different industries and startups in different funding stages, and many of them were curious about using PR to penetrate a busy market and compete with established companies. Smaller budgets and smaller teams during COVID times were on everybody’s minds.

The amount of questions and emails I received during and after the PR webinar gave me the motivation to revamp this sleepy blog, which I paused in favor of various social networks and client work that kept me very busy (oddly enough, my last blog post was about blogging or not blogging). We, as PR pros, can’t assume that people understand what we do, and, of course, how we do it. In my upcoming blog posts, I will be sharing very specific PR advice and tips with a special focus on tech startups.

Let’s start with the basics even if you think you know what PR is.

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across a myriad of platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.” (PRSA)

Too long? Sounds like blah, blah? Remember two things:

  1. PR does not mean spitting out your own content. You want to “communicate,” so engaging with the right audience is essential.
  2. PR is EARNED media!

Getting media coverage is not about yourself and it is definitely not about your relatives and friends seeing your name online (ha, we used to say “in print”). It is about your prospects, partners and investors not only seeing your name, but understanding the message you are sending and the problem you are solving. Without a real problem, you obviously should not have built that company. Also, without real competitors, you probably don’t have a solid market, you are way too early or you are in the wrong place. Tip: for the reasons I just mentioned, please do not tell a journalist that you don’t have competitors.

The same way you identify a customer problem and the same way you identify your market and your competitors, please identity the people you want to talk to, because talking to the right audience is key. As with anything in life, build relationships that benefit both parties. I will explain in other blog posts how to identify the audience and how to not get on people’s nerves with fluffy sales pitches vs targeted PR. More soon.