Ilona Hitel, founder of CommsCo explains how tech founders can roll-out a successful PR strategy to help their businesses flourish.
The UK has an enviable startup economy. We have a talent pool, infrastructure and mindset creating some of the world’s most influential companies. From workforce management to automation and cybersecurity, new businesses are springing up with neat technology to address the challenges of society today. But whatever the sector, the topic of scaling is never far from the agenda and, in an age of always-on, 24/7 global coverage, how a startup understands and works with the media can make or break its business.
From providing traction for investors to simply driving more sales, getting good media coverage has never been more important. Nor more complex. Journalists now cover multiple beats (areas), channels and mediums – often simultaneously. Competition is fierce, too. There are literally thousands of businesses vying for the same slots, in the same outlets with the same reporters. This means that understanding PR and the media is no longer just a nice to have, it’s fundamental to a business looking to flourish.
Do it right, and scaleups can tap into a potential gold mine of third-party advocacy, trusted endorsement and international exposure. However, as the saying goes, ‘if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it’. Investment round PR is common and tends to be widely covered, but what then? How can a business serious about scaling best navigate the media minefield? What are the things they’re getting wrong, and how can they put them right?
Be yourself, be bold
There is a reason your technology is hot. There was a need in the market and the idea and mission behind it was sparked by savvy and intelligent founders. Almost all of whom tend not shy of a bold statement, prediction or vision.
These soundbites and personality are what helps the company stand out from the crowd – so use them. If your founder is not the most confident spokesperson, pick someone who can passionately articulate the company vision and industry issues. Failing that, invest in media training.
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But it’s not all about you
How a scaleup interprets news separates the good companies from the great ones with regards to media.
Understandably, every founder believes their company is going to reshape the world but enthusiasm and some interesting opinions are not enough.
For scaleups to win in the media, they must view their news through the lens of the press. It’s not about how good your company is. It’s about what its means to consumers and the size of the problem it is solving.
Challenge the status quo
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If a scaleup wants to embrace PR and get its head above the parapet, it needs to think incredible, bold statements.
Tesla is a best-in-class example of how to do this. Founders tend to be reticent about making a statement that has the potential to come back and bite them (Gerald Ratner, anyone?) but, in almost all cases, it doesn’t.
Besides, having a bold vision and ambition is not only OK, it’s what the media are looking for. Think in headlines. Think about making your industry peers sit up and take note and think about challenging the status quo.
Steal media mindshare
It’s worth tracking competitors, if you have them. Outwit them with your marketing. Ensure what you are doing is better, more comprehensive, more creative, more compelling.
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Get your agency to create your list of influencers and tick them off, one by one, to ensure you become the go-to source of comment. Get the engine and targets in place.
Make sure that what you say, you say everywhere. Develop a tone that sits with your brand, messaging that is consistent across your channels, and make sure your team understand who you are and what you do.
Learn three key messages from top down and keep refreshing them as they evolve. And remember – KISS (keep it simple stupid).
Messages should not be long and windy. They should be short and to the point. It’s surprising how many founders or management teams cannot convey in one line what they do.
You’re only as good as your last Google search
If you want to be found, there is one key way which ensures you will be.
Everyone needs positive Google search results, but SEO can be the domain of huge budgets only. But landing consistent media coverage, in high ranking publications, means your name will never be far from the top of a search.
If there’s a story in the news about your industry or area and you are not in it, you’re missing out and, chances are one of your competitors will be listed. Ask yourself, ‘PR might be an unplanned cost, but can we afford not to be in articles like this?’