Perhaps. And everyone’s circumstances are different. But as the founder/entrepreneur, there is no reason not to start thinking about your PR now as you grow your business. Good PR can help establish your brand and build credibility for your offering to both the media, stakeholders and future customers.
So how do you start incorporating PR into your growing business now? And how do you do that with little resources?
First, you need to ask yourself if your company is ready. Do you offer a product or service with a need in the market? Have you made any sales? If the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” then you are ready to start thinking about PR.
Remember! Startup PR is important. Having a PR firm doesn't necessarily need to be in early days.
1. Company Name
Let’s start with the basics. What do we call ourselves? Many entrepreneurs have an idea of what their company name will be. But first, you will need to run a search to ensure that your name is available in your state for the type of business you are looking to create (an LLC, for example), and second, you will want to ensure the web address is available. Your accountant or local business registration government office can assist with the first, and Godaddy or another web registrar can help with the second.
If you don’t already have a name in mind, check out one of the many services available that will help you generate a name (there are even crowdsource services available). You can even find services that will help you establish your corporate entity and sell you additional services (some of which are listed below.)
2. PR Taskforce
Assuming your company is more extensive than yourself, can you form a PR strategy team amongst the members of your organization who can assist with the other essential building blocks? Maybe someone is a creative or a strong writer, or they have some PR experience already. Start tapping the talent you already have access to because you don’t want to go it alone. It will take a dedicated team to make your organization a success and your vision a reality.
What is the vision and mission of your company? What problems does your service or product solve? Developing messaging to the answers to these questions will assist you as you build your narrative and reason for existence. Your narrative will be woven throughout the various collateral that you will be developing in Year 1.
I'm in love with this article by Shane Snow which covers the three key elements your narrative should include.
Do you have a logo in mind? What does your logo say about your organization? There are many services available to help you create the perfect logo. For example, 99 Designs is a crowdsourcing platform, while Looka allows you to go it alone.
Your logo will be used on business cards, collateral, website, etc. You may want something classic and simple or zany and innovative. The world is your oyster, and a logo doesn’t need to cost a ton. Before pulling the trigger on your future logo, make sure you review the design with your PR task force and any other respected friends/mentors that you have.
So, we have our name, narrative, and logo. Hopefully, you’ve identified a strong writer on your team. Now it’s time to start the website.
You don’t need an extensive website to get started, but you will definitely want a few key pages:
Many new companies start their first websites with one of the many free services available through Wix, Weebly, Godaddy, or a hundred others. These platforms will allow you to select a design template and make changes yourself. One tip is to use the service provided by your domain registrar to keep things under one roof. Then, you can go it alone without using an expensive external designer. Still, you will want to ensure that someone on your team updates your copy regularly and keeps the design clean with an easy interface. Then, of course, you can always invest more money as your company grows and your needs expand.
6. Social Media
Pick one or two platforms that serve your type of organization and the customers you will want to engage. You don’t need to be a master social media expert to get started. You can use the logo and branding from your website to customize your profile and content from your blogs and articles to generate posts, display your expertise, and engage your audiences. However, it is crucial to have at least one platform at the beginning and ensure regular posts.
Social media platforms help to establish credibility nowadays. It looks unusual when a company doesn’t have at least one. Use a service like Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance and organize all of your accounts in one place.
7. Local Media
Generating local attention can be easier than you think. Local media is always hungry for hometown content. Take a look at your local paper, or if you are lucky, maybe there is a local business paper. Send a friendly email to a reporter who has covered new businesses or similar industries in the past. Take advantage of the narrative you built to send them some information, see if they are interested in a profile or a tour of your facility.
As the company leader, you may feel a little hesitant about seeking out your own media coverage, but sometimes this can work to your advantage as professional PR reps can be seen as less than authentic. Remember, though, a feature about you and your company can help establish credibility, find new customers, and generate content perfect for your website and social media accounts.
There is a 99% chance that your industry supports a conference you’d be perfect. There are multiple opportunities to seek them out to increase your network, rub elbows with industry media, and raise your profile. Conferences are regularly on the lookout for presenters, and maybe your service or product would be a perfect fit. Identify and attend at least one conference in your industry sector (and hopefully your geographic area) in Year 1.
If you are on the fence about which conference to attend, see if their website includes a list of the media planning to attend or reach out to the conference organizer to obtain a list. Do a little research before to ensure that these reporters are a good fit for your business.
9. Non-Traditional Media
There is a little inside joke in public relations about how everyone wants a profile in the Wall Street Journal. When you are first starting, you will want to focus on building a good foundation. We’ve already covered local media and opportunities at engaging with industry reporters at conferences, but what about the “non-traditional press?”
Podcasts are an excellent vehicle, as well and blogs and micro-influencers. You will want to do some research and identify the outlet appropriate for your service or product. Is there a podcast that focuses on your business type that you can be a guest on? What “micro-influencers” are out there for you to engage with? Measure their worth, less on the total number of followers they have, but their quality.
10. Future Planning
At this point, you should have a good foundation. Some of these were one-offs (laying claim to a name and logo), but everything else should be reviewed regularly, rinsed, and repeated. That local article you got? Make sure it is on your website and posted on your social media account. Received some attention at a conference? Attend again or consider being a sponsor.
As you enter into Year 2, you will want to continue what works but start to think bigger. For example, is this the time for regional media or more prominent industry media? At some point, you will need to scale up, and this may require dedicated in-house personnel or a firm. This may also be the time for you to start thinking about outreach to analysts. The major firms (Garner, Forrester, & IDC) have a section on their websites where you can request an introductory meeting with an analyst. First, of course, you want to be sure of your product and its value to the industry.