For an early-stage company or start-up, a strategic PR campaign can help drive visibility, highlight what makes the company or its products different, and propel the business forward.
But while early-stage entrepreneurs and their associates typically value what strategic PR can bring, they are usually wearing many hats, and they don’t always understand how to use PR as a real business tool.
Here are some pitfalls to avoid.
Arriving late to the game. Don’t assume you should start your PR efforts right before you’re about to make your first announcement. Getting a savvy PR team involved early is often helpful, particularly if your goals include reaching investors and stakeholders. The key here is focus.
Operating without a communications plan. Determine what your objectives are and develop a PR plan that will help support your business goals. Visibility for its own sake is nice, but unless it reinforces the right product messages and develops a company narrative with real momentum it will fall short.
Relying on a cool product. Yes, a differentiated product or service is a big advantage, and it should be fully ready for launch and bug-free if at all possible. But even more important than the great technology is its reason for being. Does it solve a problem? Save time or labor? Make people laugh? Your story should connect the dots and make even an unsophisticated user see its usefulness.
Thinking press releases are enough. While reports of the death of the press release are greatly exaggerated, you can’t rely on it to generate media interest. To produce worthwhile media buzz, you’ll need a fully developed media relations strategy involving tailored media pitches. The trick is marrying the message to its audience, which you can only do well if you understand the audience. Before reaching out to any reporter you should spend time researching recent coverage, learning more about his/her writing style, etc. Quality coverage doesn’t come easy, it’s earned.
Confusing the founder with the company. A charismatic founder is a huge PR asset for any business, particularly an early-stage one. But the founder isn’t always synonymous with the company, and it’s best to make the distinction between the two. A talented management team is important to the company’s perception, and a 100% investment in the founder as the “face” of the company can be risky if the situation changes.