Posts Tagged ‘startups’

A few days ago, Jevon MacDonald wrote a post on StartupNorth advising startups to avoid using Public Relations agencies or Marketers to contact him on their behalf. While he was speaking about his site specifically, his statement suggests that hiring a PR firm means a startup’s priorities are “out of wack”.

I disagree. I don’t think that every startup needs a PR firm, but there are certainly many that do. Getting some early coverage can be key to getting investors, and PR firms can help with reaching the right audiences and helping the startup founder tell an interesting story about the company.

While some founders are probably great at writing and communicating, there are equally as many that aren’t. A PR agency can help draft emails, arrange interviews, and develop collateral. These are all things that PR pros excel at, and that would take away from time that a startup founder could probably spend working on the key element of their company.

Tim Lee wrote about a similar topic in a post titled PR Firm as The Anti-Signal, and I followed that one up, too.

What do you think? Should startups be hiring PR companies, or are they a waste of time?

-Parker

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Occasionally we’re lucky enough here at BlogCampaigning to have someone guest write a post for us. The latest person to share their knowledge with our readers is Malte Goesche, CEO and cofounder of Iliktotallyloveit.com, a website that “allows users to publish and share products with the broader public which they find cool, innovative, exceptionally beautiful, or just weird. Included with every item is a link to an online shop where it can be purchased.

He’s written a post for us about how his company got a great deal of publicity without the help of PR companies or newswire services.

If I say it is not that hard to get into the pages of the Financial Times, you might not believe me, even though it only took two well-written emails to get there. Of course, I’m leaving out a lot about building a startup (from having the idea to build the product and get funded), but this is supposed to tell you more about how we built and established the brand of iliketotallyloveit.com.

Out of our team of four,  one of my jobs was to get our name out there. Since I didn’t take PR & Marketing 101 I just did what I thought would be the way to do it: find publications (online and offline) that I liked myself and found suitable,  then get in touch with the the right person at each publication, approaching them as directly and personally as possible. It sounds easy, but I think my naivety back then saved me from making many mistakes (I guess that’s what these 101 classes would’ve been good for). I didn’t write press releases or generic emails. By browsing through the chosen publications I found out which authors would be the right fit and then I went ahead and introduced myself via email as what I was back then: a student who had a website with some friends and who would be happy to hear some feedback or a have some review their site. I wasn’t pretentious, didn’t lie and never bullshitted anyone. People seem to have appreciated that a lot.

I believe that approaching people on an eye-to-eye level is very important. When you are writing (I intentionally don’t use the term pitch here due to its spammy connotations) to a smaller blogger you don’t want to come off as the big-headed founder of a startup, just as another internet/tech savvy person/fan who wants to share what he created with others. Be approachable and open to people. Even if whomever you reached out doesn’t write about you right away they might remember you and get back to you once your startup is just the one they need to write about at some point. To go back to the article in the FT, in this case I was lucky, because I emailed the journalist right when she was researching a piece going into our direction. Sometimes a little bit of luck helps.

When writing that email try to keep it short and simple. Remember that you are writing to a human being and don’t just copy and paste some impersonal marketing piece. Let the recipient know that you did your research about her/him and why you think that they could be interested in your product. Just imagine you are meeting that person face-to-face somewhere and act/write accordingly.

After putting in weeks and weeks into researching journalists and bloggers and then writing emails, quite a few publications wrote about us and we also started to write few press releases. I don’t really know about press releases. We did spend the money on sending one out through PR Newswire once with zero response. Unfortunately, it was just a waste of time and cash; as a small startup €800 is real money. Here I think it depends on what your product is and I believe it can’t hurt to try it once. If the ROI is satisfactory, great and if not you know where you can save some money in the future and you’ve  learned a lesson.

I like to rely on my personal mailing list that I built and keep building. Sending a message out through it every few months has always brought good results.

Some people will also tell you to hire a PR agency. That of course depends on so many factors. If you are a small startup you might not want to spend a monthly flat fee (I found that they usually started at around $10k for mid-sized agencies) for many services you might not need, but it all depends. If no one in your team wants or can handle the PR work this might be the right type of thing to outsource. Some startups grow so fast and have so many press requests coming in that it makes sense for them go down that road. I can only speak for us, and say that so far we haven’t needed a full blown PR and marketing package. Although we did spend some money to get some advice from a few experts, I believe there is nothing we can’t handle ourselves.

Well, this post was very long considering that my main message is actually very short: Try different approaches and see what works best for you. Do some PR A/B testing, carefully evaluate the results and sort out what didn’t do the job. Learn those lessons and keep moving forward. Or, as the world’s best basketball player Michael Jordan once said:

“I have failed over and over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.”

Feel free to email Malte at malte (at) i liketotallyloveit.com, follow him on Twitter (he’s @malte) or to read his blog at Blog.iliketotallyloveit.com. Don’t forget to check out iliketotallyloveit.com!

What do you think of Malte’s thoughts on getting coverage?

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You're reading BlogCampaigning. We write about public relations, social media, video games, marketing and pretty much whatever we feel is important. We've been around since August, 2006. Right now, It's mostly written by Parker Mason.