3 biggest mistakes startups make with PR

PR. Potentially the two most misunderstood letters in the alphabet, but perhaps also the most powerful. And those who know business, know the power of them.

Bill Gates has said that if he were down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on PR, and Richard Branson has said that it is infinitely more effective than advertising.

So what exactly is it?

Public Relations is a sort of invisible magic dust for brands. Unlike advertising, which is bought, PR ‘earns’ your business space in the media.

And because it’s ‘money can’t buy’, it has the added credibility of a third party endorsing your brand.

If you appear in the media, for example in a print or online article (or a radio or TV interview), the assumption is, it’s because you’re worth writing about (or hearing from).

The best bit is that start-ups and small businesses have so much to gain from so little.

But unfortunately, they make some common mistakes. Get ahead of your competition by correcting them today.

1. They don’t know what story they’re telling.

All publicity is not good publicity.

Don’t make the mistake of rushing to get media coverage before you know:

  • Your story: What makes you unique and why should people care?
  • Your targets: You need to know your customer personas and the media they’re consuming. There is little point in securing a cover story on a magazine that they don’t read!
  • Your key messages: What are the key points you need to communicate to influence attitude or behaviour change?

2. They put off the interview

I see start-ups excited in the beginning but then too nervous to take a media interview so they delay, and ultimately miss out.

Journalists are notorious for giving tight time-frames, but the worst thing you can do is to turn them down.

They’ll pass the opportunity on to the next person (likely your competitor!) and the next time they need comment, you can be sure that they won’t be asking you.

The solution is to make sure you are well-briefed from the outset. Consider a session or two with a PR coach to help you prepare.

3. They don’t persist

PR takes time. It’s a process to develop a good media angle, pitch it to the right outlets and secure coverage.

Unfortunately, many small businesses, once they finally dip their toe in, jump right out again. It’s understandable – a PR agency can be expensive and unsustainable for a small business.

But to see benefits, you want to maintain a consistent, positive, on-message presence in the right outlets. That’s because familiarity breeds trust: the more we hear something, the more we see something, the more we’re likely to believe it to be true.

So to build brand trust and affinity with your customer, consider a cost-effective short course or some introductory training to learn the basics to implement a strategic ‘always on’ PR program.

Finally, have fun with it. PR is a great opportunity to increase awareness of your brand and demonstrate why your business is superior to the competition. Securing coverage is a great morale booster for staff and great re-enforcement for existing customers and other stakeholders that they’ve made the right decision in choosing your business.

Best of all, it doesn’t require any financial investment, just a bit of effort and persistence, which will be well worth it when you reap the rewards of having a strong brand and an engaged tribe of customers eager to buy from you.

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Julia Loughlin
Julia Loughlin is the founder and director of Echomakers, which helps small businesses to build their brands through coaching and consulting services in PR, communications and strategy. With 10 years working agency-side for some of Australia’s recognisable brands including Telstra, ExxonMobil, Commonwealth Bank, Western Union and AGL, she is now dedicated to helping small businesses to speak up, share their stories and to be heard.

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