7 Critical PR Lessons for Launching Start-Ups
For over 20 years, we’ve been fortunate to be part of many product and company launches, with many lessons learned.
Earlier this year, we helped our client Glen Canyon Corporation earn over 30 feature articles and 150 news release postings within a span of 60 days, resulting in exceptional lead generation for them. We began pro-active outreach to media and analysts just two weeks prior to the first news release and executed the company’s formal launch at an industry trade show.
While every company is unique, our experience has shown us there are key elements essential to the success of every start-up’s PR launch:
- Establish the company’s core message(s) and positioning.
Who are you, what do you do better than anyone else and for whom?
Every start-up needs to go through this painful but necessary exercise. Many companies believe they are ready to launch without solidifying what their core competencies or value propositions are. Once we developed key messages for Glen Canyon, we took short sound bites from the messaging to create pitches, advertising creative and other marketing materials that will carry the company through any form of communication. If you’re already on the fifth revision of your company’s first news release, key messaging is probably the ingredient you’re missing!
- DRAFT a LIVE launch strategy and plan.
Dynamic and flexible – every start-up’s motto.
Note that ‘draft’ and ‘live’ are key words. At every start-up launch, variables always arise. Dates are the most notorious moving target and so is the actual availability of core offerings. Creating a strategy, goals and objectives, and an aggressive tactical plan puts the entire team marching towards the same result. Our PR team looked at the industry calendar, seeking the best time and place to first announce the company and present itself to the market. We found DistribuTECH 2012 where key media and analyst targets will be in attendance. To create buzz and excitement, we staggered the release of news announcements leading up to the event. We raised awareness and interest levels even before they hit the event.
- Understand that launching a company has hard costs.
Be wise where you pinch your pennies.
We know that every start-up watches its checkbook like a hawk. You can spend millions of dollars getting your word out but you can also spend as low as $25,000 to $60,000 for a professionally driven 3 to 6 -month launch program. It all depends on what elements you wish to include in your launch. With our clients, we not only agree on a budget, we also set goals we want to reach and suggest ways to measure the effectiveness of the program at the end. That way, you’ll really know if your campaign succeeded and that you got what you paid for.
- Know what your competitors are up to.
They’ll actually help you do your job better.
Even if they are not ‘direct’ competitors, there are always competitors that exist on various levels. Do some online research and see what they are up to! By researching Glen Canyon’s competitors, it not only helped our positioning, we also gained insight on the key events in their industry, which publications we should be pitching and advertising in and which editors and reporters we should pitch our story to.
When doing your competitive research, think along the lines of reverse engineering.
- If you’re new and no one has heard of you, pro-active PR is a MUST.
Don’t be a wall flower. Ask someone to dance with you.
While we knew having an impactful first news announcement is helpful, we also knew we were coming in from the cold and no one will be waiting for our news. So, we used the ‘newbie factor’ to get our foot into the doors of targeted media and analysts looking for new material, innovative ideas and angles – a story that will shake up the competitive landscape.
It may sound old-fashioned but the time-tested PR tactic of making pre-announcement or briefing pitches via email, followed up by a telephone call is still very effective. We were prepared with our pitch and supporting material when we made those phone calls – and offered up the company executives for briefings and press presentations. More than two months later, we are still getting requests for briefings from that initial outreach!
- A press release is not a term paper or a product data sheet.
A press release is an appetizer to your company’s yummy main course and dessert menu.
Don’t jam everything in there and drown the core messages. A press release is a hook with a call to action: To get them to want to know more about you. It only takes a few seconds for a reporter or analyst to make the decision whether to pick up what you have to say, so make the most of your headline, subhead and first paragraph.
We were careful not to cross the line of appearing trivial, so we learned the aches and pains of the industry in order to craft a substantial news announcement that grabs immediate attention.
- The buck does not stop after the launch.
You can’t have a baby and just let it raise itself.
Finally, don’t stop your PR program right after a successful launch. If you do, after a few months you will wonder, “Why did they stop writing about us even though we haven’t stopped sending news releases?” If no one is maintaining the relationships, keeping the stream of news and communications alive between your target media/analyst and your company, seeking out opportunities for coverage – you simply fall off the radar.
Sending news releases out on passive mode doesn’t work. To remain at the top of everyone’s radar, you must maintain some kind of constant visibility after the launch and continue your outreach programs, even at the most basic level.
“Cross Border Communications represents a new standard in professional service in connection with the implementation of a PR and marketing program. Unmatched! Cross Border implemented a startup full-feature marketing communication, trade show and identity presence in just a few weeks with great success!”
John Heibel, CEO, Glen Canyon Corporation
Liz Estrella-Basilio is a PR professional and the Managing Partner at at Cross Border Communications. Together with Elena, they work with start-up to multi-million dollar technology companies who want to get their story heard in traditional, digital and social media.
She recently revived her Twitter account and will be out on the prowl to find those who are truly #FollowFriday-worthy on Twitter. Follow her at@lizestrellab.