For a startup business, the most important thing to generate interest is to have a media relations PR program from the very first day. What is my brand statement? What do we do? What do I want people to know about my business? How can I get media attention about it?
Of course today with social media, it’s easier than it used to be because you can promote your business on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. However, getting credibility of media coverage requires a plan, a strategy and professionalism.
Print Isn’t Dead-Writing a Standard Press Release
One of the first things you need to do is learn how to write a correct press release. Learn what is the AP Standard Style for a press release and write your press releases that way. The media will know that you’re serious if they get a press release from you that’s written professionally.
Then, what media coverage do you want? Do you want prints? Do you want radio? Do you want TV? What are you doing in your business that is new and interesting that the media would be interested in writing about you? You should have all of this written down. It should not be just in your head. There’s plenty of software you can get—how to create a media plan, how to create a business plan, how to create marketing plan—and use the software to create a plan.
Then what are you going to promote? Write your press release, send it to the media, and then just a brief phone call. You want to bother the media; however, once they’re aware of you, you’ll know what’s going on. The other thing that you can do even as a startup is promote your press releases on Press Release Central, PRWeb, and Business Wire. When you have significant news, you can subscribe to those and send it out across the country and have them pick it up.
Why Media Coverage is Important
Having media coverage, having people know you are and understand what you’re doing is very important. Especially if you’re in B2B because that’s how you’re going to get clients is by people knowing who you are.
As a small business or a startup, you’re going to have a limited number of salespeople. The media needs to know who you are so they can come to you and write about you so you can promote yourself. Once you have that press release and have a little story, then you can promote it on social media.
The print media still is following the press release. Especially the B2B publications, The Business Journals and sections of the paper Inc. You can get attention on social media.
I follow many of the reporters of national publications on Twitter and understand what they’re looking for. Then you can respond to them and say, “I’m doing this and I’m doing that, and this is different.” Still you want to have a written press release for them with the facts: what your company is, what does it do, how does it operate, and how people should get in contact with you. It’s still important to have a press release.
Make Your Website Your Newsroom
Also, on your website you should have a press release central where you post your press releases and put the links to the media coverage that you’ve gotten. You need a newsroom on your website so when the newspaper magazine editor gets your press release, they can go to your website and understand who you are and see what other media coverage that you’ve gotten. It’s still proper to follow the channels of a professional PR agency in getting where you need to go.
You’re a Winner-Learn More About Awards Programs
A part of it that you can do to get your brand out and to get known is to look for awards and honors and recognitions that will help people know that you are a viable, successful, professionally run business. There are a number of award programs for startups. You can do research on Google; just put in “award programs” and you’re going to find them over the country.
Nearly every Chamber of Commerce has at least one awards program during the year. They have them for minority-owned businesses, for women-owned businesses, for startups, for new businesses, for innovative ideas. You find the awards programs that fit your business and then you study the elements of that awards program.
How do you apply? When is the deadline? Who is the contact person? What kind of content do you need to provide to be considered for the award program? You have to do all the study on your own and they expect you to do that. If it asks you to provide financial information, then you have to do that.
Not every award program asks for financial information. Some of them just want to know how you’re innovative, what you’re doing, and how you’re creating growth in your business. Those are really important to look at for building your brand awareness.
Being a Winner is Expensive
It’s very expensive for new businesses to advertise in business publications; however, most of the award programs are free or nearly free. You might have to join the Chamber or pay an entry fee, but after that, everything else goes with it. It’s really important to build your brand awareness by using award and then you can take that award and promote it on your website and in your press releases as being a credible, viable business.
So let’s say that you are selected for an award. What are your goals and objectives? Your goal is to meet ten of the prior honorees. If that’s your goal, you read all the honorees and then say there’s 10 people that you would like to connect with for referrals of possible clients, then how are you going to do that?
Well, you could put them on your email list and send them your updates as you go. You could connect with them on LinkedIn and keep them updated about what you’re doing and follow what they’re doing. You can invite them to lunch. You can invite them to your office and say you want to build a relationship with them and that’s your goal.
Innovation Is the Key to Success
The one thing you want to do in your business is to be innovative. You have to know what you’re doing to be innovative because to get known, to build relationships, to growing your business, you’ve got to stand out away from the crowd. You’ve got to do something different.
How you build that difference, that innovation, is important and that would be what you put in your press release and that would be the award that you would be looking for—for innovation. Let people know, “This is why we’re different. This is how we’re different. This is who we are. This is why you should do business with us. This is how we can help you.” All of that should be part of your branding statement when you’re starting your business.
Celebrate Yourself-Business Milestones
One of the things that my agency does is we help businesses celebrate their milestones, whether they’re in business three years, five years, 10 years, 15 years. We create a PR branding/marketing plan around that milestone. How did the business get to where they are? What is unique about them? How have they persevered through the years? We create a PR plan.
Part of that PR plan is of course seeking visibility through the print media, radio and television. But it’s also creating an event or theme for the year where you’re thanking your employees, your vendors and your customers for helping you get to where you need to go.
And then again, you’re branding your business as being reliable, you’re branding your business as being successful, and you’re branding your business as being the kind of company that people should do business with. You’re drawing very positive attention around your business.
You’re Throwing a Party-Tell the Media to RSVP
The media will not do this for you. You have to create it and take it to them. So you know that if you’re five years old or 10 years old, what were your milestones? What have you done that’s really good? How can you celebrate it? You can certainly buy ads in the media, radio or television: “We’re five years old, 10 years old, we’re 15, we’re 20. This is who we are and this is what we do.”
You can have a themed event where you invite your past employees. You invite all your customers and business associates to celebrate with you. You’re creating a very positive buzz about who you are what you do that you couldn’t do at any other time unless you’re having a milestone where you’re celebrating something else in your business.
It’s a great way to keep people talking about you, increase your visibility and let people know who you are and what you do. It’s a good time to find a not-for-profit organization that you really care about and celebrate with them and donate to them during your milestone celebration. Or you could create your own themed event, you could have a golf tournament, you could take to everybody to the Royals game—a baseball game. Whatever you want to do to celebrate your milestone, you should do that. It’s an opportunity that really comes only every five years.
Now we have had clients who have celebrated their 11th anniversary or their 17th, but in general it’s every five years. It’s an opportunity for you to say, “Look at us. We’re a great company. You should come and do business with us. Look what we’ve achieved.” And you say that through a milestone celebration.