For many tech start-ups, investing in a strategic public relations plan is the first step in preparing a product or service for “prime time.” In our experience, timing is critical to getting the best press response, and the tendency to rush headlong into mass media relations can backfire. Here are five “slow-down” signs to help time the plunge into full-blown PR mode to achieve maximum results.
Early reviews show many different kinds of product glitches. If early reviewers find your new app or piece of hardware a bit “buggy,” that’s to be expected. But if the glitches are all over the map, as opposed to a cluster of similar issues, that’s a clear sign you aren’t ready to engage in a full-blown PR campaign just yet. It is typically easier for product engineers to correct one flaw as opposed to something potentially systemic. Use those early reviewers as sounding boards, stay in touch with them and offer them first crack at your “new and improved” device or app.
Your product USP is a moving target. We recently worked with a start-up which offered online subscription-based mental health counseling. As we were preparing to offer an exclusive interview with the founders, they suddenly changed course and decided to offer the service first to college students, a very different segment from the one we had developed messaging and materials for. Since we generally get just one bite at the exclusive, if there’s anything less than crystal clarity about what your announcement is, you’re not ready to announce.
You don’t yet have a “category.” It’s intuitive to think that the groundbreaking, one-of-a-kind tech marvel coming out of your company should be heralded by massive media interest. Au contraire. Many media don’t consider a new product announcement worthy if it doesn’t have at least one other entry in its category. We have been told by press that categories make the story, a one-off product may just mean a fluke and not a worthy offering that will catch fire with consumers. When launching a wearable ultrasound pain device, the Wall St. Journal, for example, didn’t cover the story until the reporter had uncovered another player in the space.
Your infrastructure is lacking. As a start-up, there may be some departments that are quite up to snuff as your product is coming to market. Before entering into a PR partnership that will thrust a company into the public consciousness, leaders need to staff up and prepare everything from sales and IT departments to legal and HR.
You don’t have the budget to do PR well. Many tech start-ups put the big dollars into R&D and fail to budget properly for marketing. If you have a very small budget and are relying on some kind of DIY PR, the results will likely be disappointing. Or, perhaps you budgeted for a targeted ad campaign, thinking it could best explain your product to early adopters. You may find that it can’t. When your team is ready to tell the world your story, prepare by researching PR firms, assessing their track record and finding out if your teams are compatible. The best tech PR comes from collaborating with partners who specialize and factoring those costs into preliminary budgets.
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