As an entrepreneur, your plate is probably overflowing — especially in the early days of a new business. You’re doing ten different jobs, taking the lead on design, strategy, fundraising, marketing, human resources, and finance. After all, with the basic foundation of the business not yet fully in place, it’s hard to justify spending additional cash on an “extra” like public relations.
But PR isn’t an extra at all. It isn’t something that only established companies need to worry about, and it definitely shouldn’t be left until a crisis hits.
“PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies. Very few investors understand this and even fewer startups.” — Mark Suster, Partner at Upfront Ventures
Getting a handle on a PR strategy for your company — even in its pre-seed phase — can extend to other areas and help you grow your business overall.
Tackling PR in the early stages can help you establish a narrative about your company rather than leave the press to guess what your end goals are, what your mission is, and who you are as a founder and a person.
Tackling PR as a Startup
Investing time in PR will also help you move past any “garage project” perceptions quickly by presenting a polished image to potential partners, employees, and advisors. Furthermore, PR could help bring in the right money to cement important partnerships.
Understanding how PR works will benefit you in the long run, even when you have the budget to hire an agency. By the time you’re ready to bring on specialists, you’ll have a solid understanding of how PR works, and you’ll be able to better leverage your PR agency relationship.
There are several basic PR power moves that you can put into practice today with little to no budget. Remember, the ‘R’ stands for relations because, really, that’s what it’s all about: building and maintaining strong relationships. Here are four tips to help you get started:
Build genuine relationships with journalists.
Every email exchange is an opportunity to build a deeper relationship, whether it’s with a national anchor or a local reporter. If there’s an opportunity to grab coffee with that journalist and continue the conversation in person, do it — but only if it feels authentic. These personal conversations give the journalist an opportunity to get to know you and your brand better. In turn, you get to share your story with the journalist and, hopefully, his audience.
Stay active on social media.
Being active doesn’t just mean producing content; it also means developing relationships with other users by sharing and commenting on their content. Look for other entrepreneurs, possible customers, and even venture capitalists to follow, and interact in a way that adds value to the conversation. And when someone reaches out to you, be sure to return the favor.
Get involved in the local startup scene.
If you look hard enough, you’re sure to find meetups, conferences, and other events that are relevant to your industry and close to home. Take the opportunity to attend as many as you can to get your brand’s name circulating and network with like-minded individuals.
There are so many ways to publish online that you really have no excuse not to. Write on your own blog or Medium profile, expand reach with guest blogging, publish on your company’s blog, or join a pre-existing online community. Share your thoughts on your industry and the macro trends that are permeating it to establish yourself as an expert in the field.
You should have noticed that these tips don’t require a huge budget. Each one is a simple step toward connecting with folks who can help you share your vision with the world at large. In the beginning stages of a new business, no relationship is too small or insignificant. While you’re your own boutique PR agency, make it a personal mission to treat every interaction like it’s your next big break.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Elliot Tomaeno is the founder of Astrsk, a New York PR firm that works with both emerging and established technology companies. Elliot has worked with companies such as Squarespace, Frank & Oak, Trello, QuizUp, ClassPass, PHHHOTO, Zola, and many more. Since launching in 2012, Astrsk has helped launch more than 150 startups and tech products and has been part of seven exits. Connect with @elliotPR on Twitter.
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