US billionaire Bill Gates once famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” While you certainly wouldn’t get much for 81p at today’s exchange rate, there’s no doubt that PR can be one of the most effective and best value ways to build your business. Plus it really doesn’t have to cost the earth.
The Power of PR for Startups
As industry body the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines it, PR “is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
For start-up businesses, which usually begin with a clean slate when it comes to the public’s understanding of who they are and what they provide, the support of an experienced PR professional can power-up their growth in a number of ways.
Awareness that you exist
“If you build it, they will come,” is part of the modern lexicon thanks largely to Kevin Costers’ film ‘Field Of Dreams’ and many start-up founders have been inspired by the phrase.
However, with nearly 2,000 startups kicking off per day in the UK, it’s clear that simply creating a business or product is not enough – you also need to ensure your potential customers know it exists.
A good PR professional can help you to develop stories that capture the interest of your target audience and identify the right channels to communicate these through.
Placing thought leadership stories or product reviews in key target media, working together with online influencers or partners to develop bespoke content and creating highly shareable social media assets around topical issues can all be great tactics.
Honing your message
When you fully immerse yourself in your new business – as any successful startup founder must – you’ll probably be able to reel off a list of reasons why your product or service is far superior to the competition.
However, the reality is that your audience won’t have the time or inclination to compute all of that information and the many nuances that you have identified – they just want the elevator pitch, simple and to the point.
The ability to make objective judgements is a core skill for PR professionals and a good one will use a combination of research and analysis to uncover your audiences’ priorities, and use that as the basis for drafting compelling, persuasive messaging that speaks to your targets in their own language.
Building credibility and trust
One of the first things people do when they hear about a new product or service is ‘Google it’ or search on social media and see what others are saying about it.
As a result, it’s really important to build a strong online presence and encourage third-party reviews, commentary and discussion about your product or service to build credibility. Increased awareness builds trust in itself and if this is achieved partly through third-party methods such as media coverage or respected influencer/organisational partnerships, then this is even more powerful.
Relationships are a key part of PR, and a good professional will conduct detailed analysis of the online and industry landscape, and look to build strategic relationships with individuals, media and organisations that can enhance your credibility.
A strong mix of positive media coverage, chatter on social media and good reviews will usually be enough to persuade potential customers, investors and employees that your business is credible and worth working with.
It will usually take a while for a start-up to become well-known enough for people to be Googling its name as a first port of call.
However, if your business fulfils a need that people are searching for on Google, then good PR could help you start to pick up organic traffic as part of your SEO strategy.
Google’s priority is to serve its users high quality, reputable websites that meet the needs of its audience. One of the key methods it uses to identify how credible a site is is to consider it’s backlink profile, i.e. the quality (and volume) of the websites that link to that site.
Therefore by securing media coverage with a followed link back to your website, it sends a strong signal to Google that your site can be trusted – leading to it being pushed up the rankings.
A forward-thinking digital PR expert will always consider the potential for on-site content alongside any media outreach, providing journalists with a strong reason to link in order to maximise the SEO benefits of their activity.
While a startup that has a compelling offering can often make a splash in its early stages, it’s important to build on that momentum with the production of fresh content and conversation to keep an audience interested.
A good PR professional can support in the building of a brand narrative around the central theme of the startup’s purpose or reason for existence. Once this is in place, it is possible to produce a steady stream of content that all ties into that central mission.
From business news around investments, recruitment and innovations, to thought-leadership comment, research, partnerships and case studies, there are plenty of ways to keep the conversation alive for start-ups and avoid losing that all important momentum.
This approach of frequent connection with your audience will also help you to build a loyal and engaged community, which can be vital to the ongoing success of the business and be an enormous advantage during any challenging times the business might face in the future.