Public Relations is Good for This, But Not That

Many small business owners primarily consider PR activities to gain media coverage and grow their business. However, it needs to be a part of a much bigger marketing...

Every young company wants to be featured in major news outlets and publications. Media coverage may give you a bump in traffic, but it’s not as meaningful as getting in front of the right audience.

For example, an app called Cody, that offers video-based fitness training from the world’s top coaches, received press from several tech publications (e.g., GigaOm and VentureBeat) on launch day. They saw a traffic spike, but it was short-lived and traffic soon returned to much lower levels.

For their long-term marketing strategy, they regularly wrote articles for their own company blog and for other websites in the fitness industry. As it turns out, their launch day press bump is now just a blip, while their content marketing efforts have paid off in spades.


Going Above and Beyond PR

Many small business owners primarily consider PR activities to gain media coverage and grow their business. However, it needs to be a part of a much bigger marketing plan. While scalable growth strategies are different for every company, here are a few things that have worked for us:


  • Company Blog & Guest Blogging

    Just like Cody, Magoosh, an online test prep company, initially built its brand and company by blogging. “We became a thought leader in the test prep space, specifically for the GRE. We hired an expert tutor as our first employee, and he wrote one blog article a day for nearly six months, Bhavin Parikh, the co-founder and CEO, explains.

    “We didn’t just focus on SEO (ranking well in search engines) – we focused on writing high quality content to build a relationship with our audience. Over time, more and more of our audience would come directly to our company blog when looking for information about the GRE rather than searching on Google. We grew our traffic from 1,000 visitors per month to 20,000 visitors per month, in four months, using this strategy.”

  • Customer Service

    At Modify, my company, we have focused on service as a way to scale; personalized service means repeat purchases and a profitable referral business. Many startups say they care about customer service, but we take it a step further to make it a part of our strategic marketing strategy.

    You’ll provide better service if you think about the “return on investment” of your customer interactions. You can measure customer service ROI by using a Net Promoter Score or by tracking word of mouth referrals. In the end, you need to find out if customers would refer you to their friends. The answer has to be a definitive yes in order for customer service to contribute to scale.


Why PR is Still Useful for Today’s Business

So, is press useless? Absolutely not! We think you should pursue media coverage for a few reasons:


  • Credibility with Investors

    While customers might not be reading press about your company, potential investors will be. Press coverage helps you build a relationship with an investor before they even know you. You can also reference company coverage as social proof that others think you are newsworthy. Candid, a site that assigns a “culture score” based on current employees’ opinions of a company, was able to meet many new investors after their highly publicized product launch.

  • Credibility with Retailers

    If you’re selling a physical product, press can mean a lot for retailers. Retailers need to convince a customer, who is possibly seeing the brand for the first time, that your product is a good investment. For Modify, our press coverage was integral to our Major League Baseball watches in a dozen stadiums this season.

  • Credibility with New Hires

    Future employees are often looking to work for a hot new startup, and they often read industry press. Parikh explains, “for Magoosh, getting press in education technology publications has helped attract candidates who otherwise may have never heard of the company.”

  • Customer Base Expansion

    My company appeared on Good Morning America, twice. We considered the opportunities parts of our marketing spend; both times we sold at a loss, but we were able to acquire thousands of new customers. We’ve been able to turn over 30 percent of those folks into repeat customers.


Ultimately, if you’re going to pursue media coverage, make sure to think about how journalists work. You can’t just send them information and say, “Cover me!” Turns out, they’re people too. Take VC, Mark Suster’s advice and think about press as a process. Build relationships and create value for the people covering you, and you’ll get more — and more valuable — coverage.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Aaron Schwartz is Founder and CEO at Modify Industries, Inc., which designs interchangeable custom watches known as Modify Watches. He loves working on startup ideas and has spent innumerable (happy) hours advising friends and former students on how to grow their ideas. This article was co-authored by Bhavin Parikh, founder and CEO of Magoosh, which provides a convenient, fun, and effective way for students to prepare for standardized tests.


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