Inside money, markets, and Big Tech

This article was published on April 5, 2017

    14 Pro Tips On How To Do PR For Your Startup Differently

    14 Pro Tips On How To Do PR For Your Startup Differently

    Priyanka Desai
    Story by

    Priyanka Desai

    I'm the founder of iScribblers, a content marketing and PR partner for tech startups. I'm the founder of iScribblers, a content marketing and PR partner for tech startups.

    Imagine how your sales would improve if your business, product or service gets covered by a major publication!

    What a boost your career would receive when you get quoted as a subject expert by the a well-know publication!

    However, sending pale PR pitches asking a journalist to write about you will lead you nowhere. Your mail will get buried in the hundreds of other emails, never to be read or replied to.

    For this article, I approached PR experts who’ve gained massive public relations for themselves, their clients and journalists who’ve come across the best pitches. Here are the 14 tips they share – and not just an outreach mail to cover their story.

    As you read through these points, you’ll realize that gaining PR for your startup is not as difficult as you thought it would be. Hard work and persistence plays a vital role in this.

    #1. Connect to journalists, editors and contributors on LinkedIn.

    “One of the best way’s I’ve managed to get myself and our company Linkfluencer featured in over 50 different major media publications was by leveraging LinkedIn.

    With 94.2 percent of journalists and editors on the LinkedIn who are hungry for experts to comment around topics they are writing for, there’s no better place to reach out to them and get your business featured.

    I found the journalists and editors who were writing around topics I wanted to get featured in, I connected with them on LinkedIn and started to build a relationship with them by engaging with their content.

    Within 3 months I had a media contact list of over 330 and was featured in 50 major media publications including Huffington Post, Forbes, Inc and Business Insider. My advice for start ups, start leveraging LinkedIn now.”

    — Alex Pirouz, founder of LinkFluencer

    #2. At most of the events, the press arrives 1 hour before the event officially starts. Don’t miss this opportunity. 

    “So, a lot of people are unaware of the following: There’s something companies (especially start-ups) almost always forget when they’re exhibiting at an event (specifically, events which are open to both the press and the public) At most of those types of events in New York City, :::the press is allowed to arrive and visit booths 1 HOUR EARLY::: …… It’s highly unprofessional when a start-up says “Uh, we’re not open yet.” …… Uh, no dumb dumb. You ARE open.

    If you read your event agreement, it says the press is allowed to come one hour early.

    :::You just lost a press opportunity with your boneheadedness:::

    LESSON: If you’re part of an event, understand that you have press opportunities before the event officially starts. Don’t be a dumbass.

    (Edited to add: I’m a journalist and I’m giving this advice based on experience, even though my lanyards at these events says “Press”, people are still pretty stupid).”

    Alex Yong, the host of Small Business Trends Livestreamed Livelihoods interview series

    #3. Comment on top blogs, provided you have something relevant to contribute. 

    Screenshots taken from Alok’s presentation: PR for startups. A reference guide!

    –Alok Kejriwal, co-founder of TheRodinHoods and Games2win 

    #4. Build relations with influencers by helping them. 

    “When we launched Bameslog, we had no budget for online marketing or public relations. A friend of ours helped us with our first pitch and another helped us with our second one.

    In my opinion, it’s easy to find the right publication and the right person, but you really have to build appropriate relations to secure authentic and favourable press. I started learning how “the power of media’’ works. Relationship building with influencers is critical. If I could reach out to press people then I wouldn’t ever need PR firms.

    I started waking up at 5 a.m. in India, which is 6:30 p.m. EST, to reach out and build relationships with the right people by becoming a source to their articles or giving genuine feedback to them. I took out one to one and a half hours for this from my schedule per day.

    Relationship building is about quality and not quantity.

    I’ve learned, that “YOU’’ don’t need a PR team to achieve this outcome. All it takes is a pinch of observation with a hint of thought about “what’s in it for them”. By making the effort to find out what the writer is looking for and answering that need, I was setting myself apart from the majority of others. But sadly, the majority of people (and sometimes especially from within the agencies) are blindly pitching anyone and everyone in the hopes of finally wearing the writer down or breaking through with brute force.

    I have always asked myself, “Where can I serve?’’

    When I have pitched to journalists, I never asked to be profiled. Instead, I ask how I could be of help. In the course of helping, I provide information about others who would be of most interest and value to their column readership base.

    In the process of helping journalists and contributors, they end up writing a little about me or my company or sometimes even a  complete profiled piece, which is just like icing on the cake.”

    — Bhupinder Nayyar, co-founder of Bameslog 

    #5. Build solid relations by engaging with their work. 

    “The number one trick is to build a solid relationship with someone first….the best way is to start with an open platform like twitter. Start engaging with the work they do and they will recognize you…from their, take the conversation to email/in person and literally get to know them…what are they looking for, what do they care about? And go out of your way to get that for them…after you do this for a few months, they will be receptive since you’ve built a relationship and will help you out especially if it’s extremely relevant to pieces they have written.”

    –Chirag Kulkarni, co-founder of Taco Agency 

    #6. Become a regular columnist at various publications you want to appear in. 

    Instead of pitching to a journalist, why not become the journalist? As I recently covered in my huge, 10,000+ word blog post How to Get Media Exposure for Your Startup: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide, there’s nothing better to control the PR your startup gets than by building a relationship with publishers yourself. This is known to many as guest blogging, but I recommend taking it a step further. Don’t settle for one-off contributions; instead, become a regular columnist at the various publications you want to appear in. Not only will you build brand awareness for your startup, you’ll build your personal brand substantially, and you can leverage it down the road for further opportunities.

    — Jayson DeMers, founder of AudienceBloom 

    #7. Subscribe to HARO. 

    “I talk about HARO all the time because I get so much value out of it from both ends. Signup for the free subscription to HARO (Help A Reporter Out). If you are an expert, you’ll receive three requests from journalists working on an article in your field. You can share your quotes, advice and expert opinions. For a journalist, this website can be used to find sources for articles.

    Scan the HARO queries as soon as they reach your inbox. If you think “Hey I could contribute to this”, then respond ASAP as they work on very tight deadlines. Often they only look at the first few replies.”

    — Joshua Steimle, founder of MWI 

    “Don’t forget HARO – I subscribe to updates even though it isn’t what I do. You never know when a reporter might be looking for a story like yours.”

    —  Sherry Gray, freelance content writer 

    #8. Share industry insights.

    “I was given the task of helping a friend who had started a business on the side designing and selling standup desks. He very much wanted to get some simple third-party validation that would add credibility to his new company and desks. My friend had written a trend piece on “how standup desks can help you live longer” to use for his sales and marketing purposes. It was fairly well written and was in a PDF format with images.

    I felt that if the article was improved a bit, stripped of any marketing jargon, and put into a plain Word document, it had potential for getting published in some trade publication. Sure enough, we did just that and, after shopping it around to various outlets over a few day period, got it placed in an office design magazine. Everyone was happy, and my friend gained more appreciation for the power of PR.”

    — Steve Jensen of SnappConner PR 

    #9. Build a rapport with journalists before pitching. 

    Journalists, Entrepreneurs and Bloggers are busy people. They receive hundreds of emails daily and ignore most of the emails. I connect with a person over the social media first. I try to understand what that person cares about. I participate in the discussions and try to find a mutual beneficial topic. If I could not find a common thread then I don’t bother him with my pitch. It’s better to maintain a genuine relationship than finding a sales prospect everywhere.

    I do not take much time when I send someone email. I follow 4 paragraph email format that does not require scrolling down on the screen.
    Hi <Name of Person>
    A few days back you wrote about an ed-tech startup <link of article>
    I was also running a startup in education. We went through lots of ups and down in the past few months. Unfortunately, we had to shut down our startup operations.
    I have shared my experience at LinkedIn <link of article> and people liked my write-up. It’s painful to shut down but it feels good if more entrepreneurs can learn from my mistakes. 
    Would you like to put this story on your portal? I can share more details.
    This means:
    • Interact with the person over social media if possible
    • Write a genuine email
    • Stay to the point
    • Talk about your strengths with the proofs. Don’t boast. Just inform
    • Talk about their benefits
    • Finish the email in as less words as possible
    • Make their life easy – they are busy people

    — Paardeep Goyal, founder of CashOverflow 

    #10. Unique public stunts. 

    “I like low effort, high impact executions. Unique “public stunts”, whether it is a imaged product as a prank or a fun host event for a special occasion, “public stunts” can get a lot of media attention. When done right, you don’t need much of an investment”.

    — Tony Tie, senior search marketer at Expedia Canada 

    #11. Invite a media outlet to document a stunt you are doing.

    “The best example of this is our client Timothy Sykes. He’s become best known for his infamous Instagram account where over 800K people follow photos of his lavish lifestyle and even photos of just piles of his money. So when Tim was in New York recently to do a photo shoot for Instagram with over $1M in his cash (which would require him actually going to the bank to withdraw it), we pitched one of the largest news websites on allowing their film crew to follow Tim and his security detail on his “trip to the bank” and to document what it is like to withdraw $1M in cash and then bringing it back to his hotel room to proceed to take photos with it.

    The video garnered millions of views. The lesson here is to develop a concept for an event that you can invite reporters to document, but remember that it needs to be aligned and in character with your brand. For Tim, the trip to the bank was perfectly aligned with his persona. For another type of brand, this wouldn’t work. So you need to put thought into an idea that aligns with your company and product.”

    — Richard Lorenzen, CEO of Fifth Avenue Brands

    #12. Hiring news are widely covered in sluggish economic areas. 

    “If your start-up is in a sluggish economic area and you are hiring, any local business desk will do a job creation story on your new business, even if the angle is “Expects to hire 3 in the next year”.

    — Sheelagh Caygill,  founder of Communicate Influence  

    #13. Create a cutting edge research report or white paper about your industry.

    For instance, our partner company Dinar Standard mentions how their excellent reports on the state of Islamic Economy get them tons of media mentions. Another company that does this well is HubSpot whose yearly State of Inbound report is an excellent initiative.

    Similarly, if your startup has created an app about fitness and diet for a particular country, why not work on creating a free data base of local foods with details on their ingredients and calories.

    Syed Irfan Ajmal, serial entrepreneur and digital marketer 

    #14. Get into smaller publications first and leverage that to get into bigger ones. 

    “When most people start trying to get press for their startup – they always tend to go after the biggest publications they can find. They’ll go after Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Business Insider, etc.. but what you should do, especially if you have a brand new startup is to get into the smaller publications first and use that as a leverage to get into bigger publications.

    A real life example of that is what we did for one of our clients – Travelmate Robotics. They had a really cool product but they did not gain the traction they really wanted. So they hired us and we were able to get them on The Huffington Post which then led to a surge of media traffic because bigger publications picked them up. So now, they’ve received millions of views and have been covered by CNN, Viral Thread, Tech Insider, HNL and more.

    Most people don’t even know that you can submit content to Viral Thread to get it published.

    — Ulyses Osuna, founder of Influencer Press 

    These tips require no fancy ado. Get started with them immediately. All you need is patience, perseverance and willingness to add value before asking for something.