I’ve been working in the very niche tech public relations (PR) space for over a decade. If there is one piece of advice I have for companies looking to invest in PR, it is to make absolutely sure you are ready. As exciting as it is to build a business, it can be equally disappointing to jump into a PR campaign before you’re ready to take advantage. Spending time, effort and money on any promotional effort and not seeing results is costly and no fun. The good news is there is a sweet spot for investing in PR.
When it comes to public relations, you may sometimes find yourself in a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, needing press to get clients and needing clients to get press.
Below are some tips to help you recognize when you’re there.
Is our product/service ready to sell?
First things first. In order to have a successful PR campaign, you must have a product or service ready to launch. Often, companies make the mistake of jumping the gun on PR before they’re truly ready to sell. For new companies, a good rule of thumb is to begin looking into investing in PR about four to six months before you’re ready to launch. In addition to the agency using this time to understand your goals, develop your messaging, build your media contact list and create a launch plan, smart PR firms will also take this time to scope the media landscape that they’ll be pitching into. For businesses, this time period is important because you’ll learn a lot about how to present your product to the media, what potential roadblocks you might encounter on your route to media coverage, and just how aggressive you may need to be with fundraising in order to secure top media coverage.
Sometimes, potential clients come to us wanting to do a “prelaunch.” To be honest, a prelaunch only makes sense in very few cases. Generally, you’ll have better luck with the press (and, in turn, sales) by only announcing/launching your product or service once it is available for demo or purchase.
Think about it this way: when you do a prelaunch, most of the press responses will be something like, “This sounds great, can you send us a sample?” or “Interesting, who is currently using this product?” or “Looks cool, where can people purchase this product?” If you aren’t able to provide them with answers, you’re not ready to go to the press.
Another thing to consider is waiting until you have at least one user or client — or if you’re offering, say, software as a service (SaaS) — you may need a number of customers to come out of beta to launch. This way, you are able to add metrics, stats and/or quotes in your launch release about the performance of the product. Having a customer that can speak to the press on your behalf is a huge plus in any PR campaign, but even more so when you’re launching. This gives credibility to what you’re doing and gives journalists something more to “bite onto.”
Are we adequately funded?
This one can be tricky. Depending on what type of business you have, funding can be crucial to ensure you:
- have the funds to invest in a public relations campaign and
- are able to show potential investors and the press that you’re a “real” company with solid financial backing.
Conventional wisdom used to dictate stealth mode for startups looking to attract investors, however, in some instances PR can actually be used to entice investors. This strategy can be very effective. We’ve had success attracting such for clients by gaining traction with the press. However, this strategy works on a case-by-case basis and needs to be professionally vetted to understand the media climate respective of your verticals. One gauge: if you aren’t in a position to invest in PR for at least six months without additional funding, it’s wise to wait.
Is there more news in our pipeline?
This is less important than the previous two factors but definitely something to consider. If you launch a product and support it with a public relations campaign, you’ll likely see a quick influx of press opportunities. However, stories get stale. It’s important to look at public relations as a tool that will help your business grow steadily, not as a “one-and-done” strategy. Even if your launch goes well, after a few months, journalists are looking for updates and want to hear what’s new with your company. We suggest having a plan to release updates, new products, etc. to continue to build your brand.
That said, keep in mind that press garners press, meaning the initial press coverage earned for your business will likely open doors to other press-worthy opportunities like awards, funding and speaking opportunities. Depending on your product/service, you may find that your launch continues to lend more opportunities. Just remember you’ll need to keep “feeding the beast,” to provide journalists with real news. Continuing to pitch stale content can put you in a position where journalists will stop paying attention to you.
I’ve been here all along but…
Not all companies looking to invest in PR are new businesses. While we work with a lot of startups, it’s also important to note that PR can be a great way to increase sales and awareness for existing companies.
If you’ve been around for a while and have noticed a decline in sales, PR can be a perfect strategy to jump-start your business. You’ll likely already have clients (and therefore opportunities to draft case studies). Your professional PR team will likely revamp your messaging and goals to identify missed opportunities in the press and offer foundation builders (awards, speaking opportunities, outreach, editorial calendar research, list selects based on verticals, social media consideration, pitch revamps, streaming opportunities, etc.).
Opening your company up to new opportunities by capitalizing on the things that make your business cool or different can breathe new life into a declining sales cycle … if can you employ the tools and tactics necessary to do so.
PR is personal: not a one-size-fits-all effort
Although there are proven strategies and tactics, we recognize every business is different and there’s no “one-size-fits-all” PR plan. Gaining objective perspective of your position in the marketplace — as well as learning from a trusted PR professional which tactics to employ when — will help you make the most of your investment in PR.
When it comes to public relations, you may sometimes find yourself in a “chicken-and-egg” scenario, needing press to get clients and needing clients to get press. If you’re stuck or looking for additional advice, our agency is always available to guide you through the decision-making process to lay a solid foundation for your effort. We’re very direct in accessing timing, and we do our best work when clients are buttoned up for success. It’s in everyone’s best interest to investigate where your company is and which tools are the best fit for you.