How to start a PR campaign for a startup

When you can’t coast on an established company name, it’s up to you to grab people’s attention with all the available tools and captivating stories.


Ever since I got my first job in a startup PR firm, I have loved working with startups.

I knew that exactly what I was dealing with in my own office—growth, ROI, hiring, firing, tight budgets, crazy requests from our first clients, lots of coffee, and long, long hours—was what my own startup clients were dealing with, too. How could I not relate?

Startup PR may seem daunting, but if you’re passionate about your product or service and you have a great support team, the stories will come. Whether you are working with a company on a shoestring budget, maximizing the value of venture capital funds, or running your own startup solo, you can be successful.

Here are tips for maximizing your PR efforts that are sure to help you get attention:

Quit being boring; start getting juicy.

This is tough for some people, especially in highly technical startups. Being personable and being able to tell a story (even a “boring” one) in an exciting and passionate way tends to get others excited, too. Reporters love quirky, fun, sometimes even weird stories that other people can relate to, enjoy, and share. If you can make people relate to you and your product or service, you will have a much easier time getting on the reporter’s radar.

Pick your media contacts wisely.

So, now you have your fun, relatable story down pat; the question is, how do you get a reporter to listen?

If you want reporters to care about you, you have to care about them first. Pick a handful of reporters, target outlets where you want your product featured, and learn about them. Read the stories these reporters are writing, and make sure they are relevant to you and your story.

Obviously, you don’t want to reach out to a foreign affairs reporter when your product is a cool stuffed animal that talks to kids. (That’s obvious, right? But it’s one of the things that really annoy reporters.) Find the reporters who care about what you are doing, and build relationships with them.

How do you build a relationship? First, read their coverage. Second, promote their coverage. Use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to comment on what they are writing about. Share it with friends, or leave a comment. Though you aren’t pitching your product, you are getting your name on their radar, making it easier when you do reach out.

Raise awareness through events and crowd-funding sites.

Another great way to get in front of journalists is by using events, conferences, or crowd-funding sites. A lot of media outlets such as TechCrunch host events that focus on startups—great opportunities to be introduced to the press and launch your product or service. TechCrunch Disrupt has Startup Alley devoted to new companies showcasing what they can do. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and Mobile World Congress feature ShowStoppers events geared towards journalists. There are many other startup events nationwide each year.

Additionally, if you are looking to fund your project, you can turn to a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise money from friends, family, and strangers. If you are considering one of these campaigns, remember that your progress might be interesting to reporters in your area and those covering your industry, so be prepared to answer any questions they have.

Remember the importance of integrated marketing.

Though PR is a huge component of launching any successful product or service, it’s not the only tactic you should focus on. By incorporating a digital marketing approach that includes PR, social media, and blogging, along with a stellar website and other marketing collateral, you will be sure to reach and engage the right audience.

PR pros, what tips would you add to our list?

Liz Grimes is public relations manager at Overit Media in Albany, N.Y. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency’s blog.

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