Tag Archives: Austin PR Tips

How to get your business in Fast Company

Fast Company LogoPitching a national magazine like Fast Company can intimidate even the most seasoned PR professionals.

Which begs the question, what’s a scrappy, do-it-yourself business owner to do if he or she wants to get some major publicity at Fast Company?

Fortunately, PR isn’t rocket science. You too can learn to pitch like a PR professional with some basic PR pointers and a little chutzpah!

Here are 8 tips on how you can prepare for and pitch reporters with national audiences like Fast Company:

Key message: ask yourself what makes you special, unique and memorable to customers. Is there something idiosyncratic in how you serve customers that really sets you apart from the competition? Is it a marketing strategy or new technology that has been really successful at finding new customers? Don’t be shy about asking your customers and vendors for ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from outside observers!

News peg: it’s what makes your story interesting to a mass audience. It’s not enough to be an interesting business; there are thousands of those. What really helps is making case that you represent a larger trend or a radical departure from a trend. For instance, an Austin real estate broker called Give Realty donates 25% of all home sales commissions to charities and in just over six years has given over $340,000 in total donations to nonprofits. A news peg for Fast Company might be in relation to the increasing popularity of social good companies donating a percentage of proceeds to charities in hopes of making the world a better place while gaining a competitive market advantage. Tie your company to a larger story trend and you just might find yourself featured in the news.

Eye-popping headline: whether you write a press release or just an email news pitch, take time to come up with 5-10 different headlines that could help hook the attention of a journalist. Often the success or failure of pitches comes down to how effective the subject or headline is at conveying the core idea and why it’s of particular relevance to a given journalist. [For tips on how to write a killer news pitch check out my post: “Wham! Email pitch subject lines should pack a punch.”]

KISS: the old adage of “keep it simple stupid” has perhaps never been as apropos as it is for pitching a busy journalists. Make that doubly so for a journalist at Fast Company, many of whom receive 100s of pitches every day! When pitching, stick to the facts and avoid rambling sentences. Be sure you answer the Who, What, Where and Why of your story as concisely as possible. But be careful not to omit key facts in your search for brevity. You can always give a journalist a teaser in the email and tell them you have copied more information below your signature line or attached a press release.

Twitter follower: Twitter is a great way to learn about a journalist and his or her likes and dislikes. Twitter can provide a level of insight into the personality behind the writer that you just don’t get to see when reading past articles. The trick to winning over a busy journalist is to be an opportunistic retweeter of the journalist’s musings over time. What’s more, if you can’t find an email address for a Fast Company journalist or editor, then Twitter can work as a great initial pitch platform. A carefully worded Twitter pitch, or even a simple request on how best to pitch your idea, will sometimes net you a reply and even email address. [See my article in Hiscox’s small business blog for tips on how to use social media for your next PR campaign.]

Bulldog: it pays to be persistent when pitching national outlets like Fast Company. You may not actually win coverage for your business the first time around (or even the second or third) but keep in touch with occasional news updates to let a journalist know you’re still around and willing to be a resource for an article. After each pitch, be sure to follow-up with either a phone call (assuming you have a phone number to call) or a second email. Bottom-line: be politely persistent, not a pest.

Responsive: if you finally do get the attention of an Fast Company writer and are asked to schedule a phone interview, be sure to respond immediately. Journalists are often working against a deadline so if you procrastinate you could lose out on your golden opportunity for national publicity.

Appreciation: if you do end up getting an interview that leads to a mention in Fast Company, then don’t forget to thank the reporter over the phone and in email. Whatever you do, don’t send a gift. Better to mention the article frequently in your social media streams and give the writer props for the great work – remember, writers, like brands, love to see their names get lots of mentions and new followers.

So the good news is you don’t have to be a media expert to get national media coverage from outlets like Fast Company. You just have to let your passion shine through – and follow the steps I outlined above.

Final note: some small businesses just don’t have the time or comfort-level needed to successfully pitch the likes of Fast Company. In a situation like that, I would recommend looking into hiring a PR consultant or PR agency. For tips on how to do that, please check out my articles on how to hire a PR firm and how much you should pay for PR.

Happy pitching!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin PR & content marketing agency for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. He specializes in highly integrated PR & inbound marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small biz, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)manzercommunications dot com.

How to find the right reporters to pitch

IMG_0464In the PR over Coffee blog I tend to focus a lot of time on how to make your business newsworthy, reach out to busy reporters and create effective press releases. I’ve even written about how to use PR to improve your search engine rankings, tarnished brand image and appearance for TV interviews (beware of white shirts!).

What I haven’t spent much time discussing is how to actually find reporters – both locally and nationally – who could potentially be interested in your latest news. Incredibly enough, finding the right reporters to pitch is possibly the most important ingredient in a successful media campaign next to having something newsworthy to share.

So how about we spend a little time looking at how you can research, identify and target reporters with your next news announcement?

Target Media: First, decide on what kind of media outlets you want to target. If you are an architecture firm in downtown Dallas or a new web service for dog sitters in Detroit, you need to decide what media outlets matter most. Start by asking what your target customers like to read or watch. If they are 20 somethings, chances are they don’t watch much TV and tend to get their information from a wide variety of online sources. If they are CIOs and tech executives in healthcare, then they probably read a fair number of healthcare IT and traditional IT trade publications.

National vs. Local: Media outlets are as numerous and varied as Lady Gaga’s costumes or Microsoft’s security patches. Are you in the fitness industry? There are literally 1000s of media outlets and reporters covering the fitness industry from new products to new fitness startups. This includes reporters for local newspapers and TV news show as well as national fitness magazines and popular day-time shows like Dr. Oz.

As a general rule, it’s much easier to get covered in local news than national news. For most small businesses that’s a very good thing. After all, the average small business sees most of its customers coming from a relatively concentrated geographic area – a small town, a suburb, a discrete neighborhood in a large metro area like SoHo in Manhattan or SoCo in Austin. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that consumers learn about what’s happening around them by watching local TV news shows, reading local newspapers, magazines or online cultural ezines, and listening to local radio stations.

Startups and emerging growth companies, however, tend to play in a much larger market – regional, national and even international. While local media coverage for a tech startup is valuable from a credibility perspective, getting blogs like TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Gizmodo to write about an amazing new technology or Series A funding is far more impactful.

Internet Research: An Internet search engine like Google or Yahoo is a valuable tool for finding media outlets and reporters that have covered your industry in the past. Use key search terms that relate more directly to what your business does or you may end up talking to the wrong journalist. Taking our earlier healthcare IT example from above, your search can start more broadly: “IT magazines,” “IT blogs,” and “tech news.” But since your company is probably focused on a niche of healthcare IT you might want to refine your search to include more specific terms: “healthcare IT news,” “mobile health IT news,” and “Healthcare IT trends.” Some of the searches may return company websites; but, hopefully, you will find a few media outlets and, more importantly, the names of journalists who actively cover the industry. Be sure to take down the media and journalist contact information including website address, emails, Twitter names (of media outlet and journalist) and note any past coverage of your specific topic.

Competition: What are your competitors doing? Have they been covered by the media? If so, figure our which media outlets and journalists covered them so you can add them to your media list. It’s a fast way to build out your media list.

Read, Watch & Listen: Another great way to find media outlets interested in your business is to actually follow as much media as possible, especially the ones with a real focus on your customer demographic. Spend up to 30 minutes each day scanning the news in order to stay on top of what the latest news trends are and how they relate to your industry or geographic focus.

If make a new cold-pressed coffee protein shake launching in Whole Foods and Trader Joes, then you may want to focus attention on grocer trade publications to spread the word about your new product among food distributors and buyers. You can also target food, fitness & lifestyle magazines interested in sharing new product news with their readers. Even general business websites like Inc. and Wall Street Journal can help spread your brand awareness among a well-heeled demographic, not to mention spreading news about your hot startup to investors seeking the next big product hit to get behind.

Organized Search: Be sure to organize your search based on criteria like national vs. local, business vs. trade, high potential vs. long shot. Use a spreadsheet to capture media information organized by media outlet name, journalist or editor name, email (if available), phone (if available) and Twitter profile name (if available). You should include a column entitled “Notes” or “Status” to document the results of your latest pitching efforts.

I also like to organize my media list by 1s, 2s and 3s, which refer to the importance of the media outlets/journalists to achieving my media outreach goals. While it may be a wonderful thing to be picked up by that famous Wall Street Journal reporter, it also may be an extremely remote possibility and therefore would rate a 2 or 3 on the scale. You win the media game by getting the easier publicity often and making calculated investments of time and resources to hit the occasional home run in a national media outlet like the WSJ.

Quality over Quantity: Having hundreds of media to pitch your latest news to may seem like a good thing but if it dilutes your efforts to the point you can’t really do an effective job then it will end up as a waste of time. I see a lot of PR agencies take the quantity over quality approach, also known as the “spray-and-pray approach.” What invariably happens is that journalists receive a very canned, impersonal pitch that ends up in the trash. The more targeted your media outreach, the better your chances of developing meaningful relationships with journalists and winning valuable publicity. To be sure, researching local media research is a more straightforward proposition but don’t let that deceive you. A little extra online research could yield quite a few more hyper-local opportunities to get your business potent coverage with niche audiences. Think Mommy blogs, fashion blogs, daily cultural blogs, lifestyle ezines – all with a local spin.

Stay Current: A key to a good media list is to keep it up to date. Journalists come and go, and media outlets start and fail all the time. To optimize your chances of getting news coverage, it’s always good to keep your media list as current as possible. Plus, your business changes over time – new product launches, new business divisions, new office openings, etc. As your company grows, so should your media list.

Purchased Media Lists: Another option is to purchase a media list, which can be a good, if costly, way to get a lot of media contacts in one fell swoop. The problem is that, despite what most media list sellers tell you, the media contacts are never as fresh as they could be. So be prepared to spend some time researching the media contacts online to make sure they are still around and still covering the same news beat. You can subscribe to an premium media database like Vocus, Cision or Meltwater, but unless you want to spend up to $5,000 annually it may be better to look for a cheaper alternative. Expensive media databases tend to be the domain of larger PR agencies and corporations with a communications team and plenty of money in the PR budget. They come with tons of media contact information, and especially helpful is the contact information for hard-to-reach media like blogs and national reporters at the gnat’s-eye level of detail. They also provide dynamic searching capability ability by keywords and geography like DMAs (Designated Market Area – think Los Angeles or Charlotte metro area) or entire states; the challenge, as always, is to make sure you focus your search on media most likely to be interested in your news.

HARO: Help a Reporter Out is a service (free or paid) offered by Vocus that allows you to receive 2-3 email blasts full of interview requests from bloggers and some journalists from reputable media outlets like Fast Company and Inc. magazine. It’s a great way to hear about quote requests from a pretty wide variety of media – although it seems the majority are from 2nd tier blogs and the rather dubious titled “anonymous” writers. Still, you may find the occasional golden opportunity to pitch a quality reporter and, even if you don’t get selected for a quote, you may end up getting the reporter’s email to add to your media list for subsequent PR campaigns.

I’m not suggesting you do ALL of the above when researching media outlets and reporters for your next PR campaign. I would, however, recommend a little Internet research, as that will yield names of reporters who have actually covered your area of interest.

Got any suggestions or experiences you want to share? Please tweet them to us at @PRoverCoffee or post them to our PR over Coffee Facebook page.

About Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR and marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

What are good topics for press releases?

IMG_0441Many small and emerging growth businesses get a kind of writer’s block when it comes to communicating their latest accomplishments in press releases. What to write about, when to share it, who in the media to approach, how much to share — all are questions that can befuddle even the most ambitious business owner or marketing manager.

Keep in mind that, historically speaking, a press release is nothing more than a formulaic communication device used when making an announcement to the public through the media.

The Internet, however, has since flipped that concept on its head. What that means for business is that there are many more topics than ever before that can become the subject of a press release.

In the past, the audience for a press release was limited to mainstream media. On occasion shareholders or other stakeholders might read them. Rarely would they reach the hands of a wider audience.

Today, press releases have so many more possibilities. The crux is how to recognize a trigger event when it happens so that you can write a press release and share it with an appropriate audience.

My list below should give you some guidance:

Company founding: when your company is founded, it’s an opportunity to share it with the local business news, especially if it involves leasing real estate and hiring employees.

Product launch: announcing a new product or service line merits a press release every time. A press release will explain to both media and customers alike what the product or service is, when it’s launching, what the price is, how to find it, etc. Maybe it’s about a spring clothing line, a sales enablement tool for enterprises or a new organic cold brew coffee beverage available at Whole Foods. You will want to communicate the key facts as succinctly as possible to interested media and customers.

New employee: say you just hired a VP or C-level employee, you will be wise to issue a release to the local business reporters (and possibly trade journalists) as it represents a significant hire for any company.

Tech startup funding: no matter whether it’s a relatively small Angel investment or a larger Series A or B round of funding, you should always accompany the event with a press release targeting relevant tech media outlets.

Awards: what if you win an industry award like an ADDY or something from an industry trade group like the National Association of Home Builders? You have a reason to do a little bragging! A press release is the place to brag to media in hopes of getting some coverage that can help grow your reputation and sales funnel to boot. Just don’t come off too self-congratulatory or a reporter may get turned off.

Milestones: akin to an award, this allows you to tell the world about your latest accomplishment in the form of milestones like years in business, number of customers served, etc. Think of McDonald’s and the number of burgers sold, which the company stopped counting at 99 billion back in 1999, by the way.

Mergers, acquisitions or strategic partnerships: these can be big news for a community or a vertical industry and so should be communicated in a press release. The terms of the deal – acquisition price, share price, ownership percentages – need to be related to the business or trade press. A community business reporter wants to know how many jobs could be gained or lost as a result of the transaction. A trade blogger wants to talk about what the combined enterprise means for the industry as a whole – higher prices, lower prices, more investment in R&D, etc.

Real estate: when you expand into a larger office or operational facility it’s usually cause for a press release explaining what is causing the growth. Be ready to cite specifics of the real estate deal: square-feet of new space versus old space, rent, number of employees, and possibly even revenue numbers or growth rates.

Charitable contribution: large monetary gifts from businesses tend to get in the news, if only in the pictures section where an oversized check is handed over to a nonprofit executive director. If you have an award ceremony and the amount donated is substantial, then consider writing a media alert or press release announcing the gift and details of the event.

Charitable fundraisers: speaking of charitable contributions, a nonprofit holding its annual fundraiser is certainly wise to consider a press release when it comes to informing the local media about the who, what, where, when and why of the event.

Capital improvements: I’m not talking about a trip to Lowe’s for a can of paint and some new furniture. If your company is about to make a 7-figure investment in adding new plant capacity or other improvements, then pick up the laptop and start writing. Any local news departments will be curious to learn what the changes will mean for the local economy in the form of jobs, more traffic, higher tax revenues, etc.

Grants: say you won a major government grant from the CDC to study a new drug therapy for treating Ebola. Because of how complicated the research project probably is, a press release is a smart way to communicate the details without handing out a dissertation. A press release also allows you to include a couple quotes that can be used in case a full-on interview is not possible.

Educating customers: sometimes a press release is a great way to educate the customer about a new offering or recent success story and doing it in the form of a press release that you email out or post on your blog is a clever way to drive inquiries.

Search engine optimization: SEO became a huge driver in the recent proliferation of press release distribution websites like PRWeb and PRLeap. If you don’t have earth-shattering news to share yet want to improve your search engine rankings, press releases can be part of an overall strategy to effect a positive change in your Google or Yahoo ranking. Just be sure your press releases are still a source of good, quality content or readers may begin to view your content with a certain amount of skepticism – i.e., that you are trying to sell them something or pushing an SEO agenda as opposed to providing facts and relevant news. That, and Google tends to look askance at what it calls keyword stuffing in press releases; Hell hath no fury like Google’s penalties for what it considers black hat SEO.

Expansion: is your business expanding into a new territory? If you’re staffing up a team in the UK or Hong Kong, then a press release will inform the local media in both your city of origin and newest location about your hiring plans and expected impact on the local economy.

Software upgrade: is your tech startup about to release a major mobile software update, or issue a new app upgrade that helps companies with cybersecurity? A press release will help you capture all the new updates in a way that bloggers at TechCrunch, Mashable and VentureBeat can easily digest and incorporate into an article.

As you can see from above, the topics for a press release are as varied as your creative mind can reach.

The key is to know what your goals for the press release are. Is it for getting some prized publicity, to educate your customers or investors, to improve your search engine rankings or any combination of the above?

Once you know your target audience and communication goals, you can then create a press release that addresses the task at hand.

Got some ideas to add? Feel free to add them below!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Austin PR and marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How many words should there be in a press release title?

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The title of a press release is the most important element of a press release. Why? Because it’s the most effective way to hook a busy reporter in hopes of gaining some serious publicity for your business or nonprofit.

Knowing how important a title is, it should not come as a surprise that it often takes as much or more time to create an effective title than any other part of the press release, including the body.

So how many words should you have in the title of your next press release?

Here are some of the factors to help determine the appropriate number:

  • Pound for pound: the title carries most of the weight of your release. A good title can communicate as much as 70% of your press release.
  • Set the hook: the effectiveness of your title allows you to hook a busy reporter or editor, getting you one step closer to the publicity you seek.
  • SEO: a press release title can help your search engine optimization goals, and the length of a title for search engine indexing purposes need only be 60 characters long.
  • Readability: a long title can certainly include more information but it may discourage readers from reading it, which is the goal of a title.
  • KISS: the general rule-of-thumb in coming up with a strong title is to keep it simple, with shorter words for the idea to get across quickly.
  • Action verbs: it’s always easier to eliminate fat by using action verbs, which are stronger at capturing a reader’s attention.
  • Technical jargon: try not to get too technical in your title if you plan to reach out to media professionals outside of niche trade journals.

So now that we have established some of the factors playing into how long a press release title should be, you are no doubt wondering what IS the ideal length of a title.

Funny thing is, there is no one right answer. I like to say that the ideal length of a press release title is the absolute fewest words it takes to communicate your core message.

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to keep your title to one line, which effectively limits it to fewer than 10-14 words, depending upon the number of characters in each word. Ideally, a title will not exceed 10-12 words and 80 characters with spaces. That does not always work, however, as some announcements are simply too hard to capture in so little space. Fear not, a long title will still work as long as you add enough hard-hitting content on that first line to hook the reader.

The point made above about how search engines index titles up to a maximum of 60 characters means that if you plan to use a keyword in the title – and you should – then you need to place the keyword inside the first 60 characters. Failing to do so would be to miss out on an effective way to improve your website’s search engine rankings.

Last Tip: When coming up with your ideal title, write up to five different versions of it to see which one does the best job in the least amount of space. Don’t forget to run it by your colleagues before deciding on a winner.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR & marketing agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

What should tech startups pay for PR?

Check_writingOne thing many tech startups struggle with is how much to pay a PR agency in order to get valuable mentions in the news media.

Regardless of whether a tech startup receives millions in seed funding or is bootstrapped, the same conundrum arises when it comes time to select a PR agency to go after TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Mashable.

If you hire the big-name PR agency from San Francisco or NYC, what should you expect to pay for all the bells and whistles? Or, what will you pay if you hire a small local firm or an indie consultant? The options are nearly limitless, in part because what a PR agency can do to help promote a tech startup to the media (and world of social media) is constantly evolving.

To help make sense of the many options, here are some quick-and-dirty estimates you would normally expect to pay for PR:

Bootstrappers: $1,500 – 3,000 / month

  • If you are a tech startup in the classic bootstrapped, lean startup model, then you probably don’t have much cash on-hand for marketing and PR. That said, you still need to get the word out in order to inform the world about your new technology breakthrough. Honestly, PR is better suited than most other marketing activities at creating interest in your startup so you should be prepared to invest more up front to spark as much interest as possible.
  • Project duration: 3-6 months to get you rapid exposure and customer awareness for a possible future Angel round.
  • Media placement potential: local business news media, as well as national trades, with a long-shot attempt at TechCrunch.

Angel-backed startups: $3,000 – 7,500 / month

  • If you scored a round of seed funding in the low 7-figure range, then you obviously have more budget to pursue an aggressive PR campaign. You can (and should) combine your PR campaign with other marketing activities such as paid social media campaigns, SEO, and regular email marketing.
  • Project duration: 6 – 12 months to gain strategic market advantage and compete against other startups for a larger VC-backed investment.
  • Media placement potential: local business news media; tech blogs like TechCrunch or VentureBeat; national trades; possibly a pick-up or two in general business news outlet like Inc. or CNNMoney depending upon your target market.

VC-backed startups: $7,500 – 25,000 / month

  • Getting a VC round is tantamount to winning the funding lottery. Just because you snagged $5 – 25 million in funding, however, doesn’t mean you should overpay for PR. That said, don’t make the mistake and under invest either. You should be prepared to run a sophisticated, multi-layered marketing and PR plan. You will need your PR firm to be professional enough to be the first line of defense for any media inquiries. Your PR plan will probably need to target multiple demographics and therefore require different messaging and lots of interview logistics, so part of what you pay your PR firm will be in the form of capable project management.
  • Project duration: 12 months minimum to gain dominant market position, possibly as the first-to-market.
  • Media placement potential: local business news media; tech blogs like TechCrunch, Mashable and VentureBeat; national trades; likely pick-ups in general business news outlet like Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNNMoney and more.

Some PR firms even go so far as to work on a blended retainer / pay-for-performance PR basis, which can work well for bootstrapped tech startups or ones with seed funding of around $1-2 million. Be sure you understand the bonus structure for the pay-for-performance piece of compensation because you don’t want to find yourself owing more than you can afford.

Do you have any thoughts on how much to pay for PR? Have you overpaid and gotten lousy results? Did you score some great media coverage on a dime?

Let us know!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer is one of the only agencies in the country specializing in technology, healthcare and energy PR to provide blended performance-based pricing. To contact Dave directly, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

When should a startup hire a PR agency?

It’s not always easy for startups to know when to hire a PR agency. Because startups are, well, just starting, they don’t have the cash flow that more established companies have in order to pursue a robust PR strategy.

Still, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, PR is one the single best investments you can make in getting the word out about your new business to a wide (and motivated!) audience.

So, regardless of whether you’re a startup in tech, food or services, you should be ready to fire up the PR machine to get the buzz going.

To help you know when it’s time to hire a PR agency, here are some hints about what kinds of events and milestones that normally indicate you are ready for prime-time:

PR Agency Tip: Patents. If you are a tech startup and have been granted a patent, then that is a great time to reach out to local and national trade media outlets. But don’t wait long to announce the patent – news is of interest only if it’s fresh!

PR Agency Tip: Funding. Some startups get an initial round of funding from Angel investors, also known as a Series A Round (click for PR tips on a startup Series A). A Series A is often a startup’s best shot at getting media mentions in local and national news outlets. Depending upon the funding amount, a tech firm could get picked up in tech blogs like TechCrunch or VentureBeat. But the amount has to be sizable – in excess of 7-figures – or it won’t impress the ‘all-star’ tech bloggers who regularly announce $10M capital raises. A PR agency will help line up interviews but enough time must be allotted to help the agency coordinate with the bloggers’ calendars.

PR Agency Tip: Real Estate. If you’re a bar, restaurant, or even a cross-fit gym, real estate is part of your startup. Whenever you negotiate a lease for your new location, be sure to let your PR person work up an announcement to share with the local news media. Real estate is still a big deal for media outlets because it’s their job to report on what’s new in the community.

PR Agency Tip: New Hires. Communities care about jobs. Depending upon the size of your community, hiring 5-10 new staff could be a big deal. If you’re in a large city like Houston or Chicago, then that number would need to be closer to 50-100, which is admittedly not an easy task for most startups but is still worth keeping in mind. If you are hiring, then a PR person should be working with your marketing team to leverage the hiring announcement and tie it to your broader business message.

PR Agency Tip: Product or Service Launch. Not all startups have a product or service to launch at first. When that time comes, however, be sure to have a PR agency on board to help you prepare for the announcement. A press release would be good to have, plus a media kit consisting of executive bios, company fact sheet and media Q&A – these are a minimum requirement for a successful product or service launch. You might also consider some media training for your company C-Suite so they are ready to go in front of the news cameras; when the camera is running, some people tend to get tongue-tied.

PR Agency Tip: Trade Show. Some startups decide to attend tradeshows in order to get directly in front of customers in hopes of generating leads and new revenue. Don’t forget to address the other side of the trade-show coin – media outlets! Plenty of trade pubs and bloggers regularly attend industry trade shows in order to find out what’s new and interesting in the industry they cover. That’s a perfect opportunity for a PR agency to a) determine which media are planning to attend, b) arrange face-to-face discussions with select media and c) maximize the exposure you receive in the industry media with pre and post-event media coordination. Allow a PR agency a good month to prepare for the event as it takes time to engage with the media and book time for face-to-face meetings.

PR Agency Tip: Awards & Accomplishments. Some startups win awards from recognized industry media. Think Paul Qui winning Top Chef on Bravo TV and all the accolades he won that eventually led to his startup – Qui Austin. Or consider the case of Thomas Brown, a homebuilder and realtor who appeared on Season 2 of Brother Vs. Brother (a spin-off of the wildly popular Property Brothers show on HGTV). Thomas was interviewed on Austin’s local ABC affiliate KVUE News the day of his first appearance on Brother Vs. Brother. He also received numerous mentions in local media outlets ranging from a business journal to a popular daily cultural blog called Culturemap Austin. Moral of the story? Work closely with your PR resource and start early enough to maximize the buzz!

Startups have plenty of opportunities to share with media outlets. The trick is working with the right PR resource early enough in the process of launching in order to create a smart, coordinated PR strategy that accomplishes your growth goals – both in brand awareness and revenue.

Got any questions about hiring a PR agency? Feel free to share them below or reach out to me at info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009 as one of the only PR agencies in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. In 2010, Dave launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves directly to media outlets. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

Dear small business owner: to be successful at PR, you must first…

I write a lot about what small businesses and startups can do to generate some viral buzz about their business.

What I don’t always do a good job of explaining is how certain conditions must be met for a business to benefit from PR. And if those conditions are not met, then the effectiveness of PR can at times be significantly diluted.

So without further ado, here are 10 non-negotiable conditions for a small business PR campaign to be successful:

  1. Patient: PR is a mid- to long-term strategy and rarely do you accomplish overnight awareness with most media coverage. Some notable exceptions exist, but those are truly rare. And if you dig deeper, you might find that those successes were part of an ongoing campaign.
  2. Risk taking: small businesses owners must be willing to take some risk with PR, as it’s not something that yields results like sales leads in a way that is easily measured. It’s part of a broad strategy designed to reach a larger number of people than traditional marketing can reach, and turn them into informed and interested fans.
  3. Experimental: to get the media’s interest in your business, you must be willing to experiment with your message and go for publicity opportunities tied to constantly-changing news headlines. Unlike advertising, you can schedule your media coverage.
  4. Open-minded: small business owners who succeed at PR are open to new ideas about how to position their company. Are you an upscale hair salon? To grab the media’s attention you may have to talk about how ladies can style their hair for football games Why? Because it’s football time and to get a shot at a TV interview it must be tied to current events like tailgating for college football games.
  5. Flexible: if you get a shot at an interview with local TV or print media, then you have to be ready to drop everything to make it happen. Trust me, they are doing you the favor, not the other way around. If you prove difficult to work with then you may as well kiss your PR chances good bye.
  6. Humble: working with the media can be exacerbating, maybe even annoying. They are extremely overworked and incredibly stressed out. That means you have to work with them on their terms, and be willing to accept the notion that their time is more valuable than yours.
  7. Persistent: don’t give up, ever. If the first news pitch doesn’t work, then let the PR process work through the impasse by searching for more news hooks, reaching out to different media outlets which may have more interest in your message.
  8. Realistic: be realistic about your chances for publicity. If you are a small art school, then you can’t expect coverage like Apple, or even a large company based in your home town. You have to be opportunistic and reactive to news trends to attach your company (and message) to larger stories.
  9. Optimistic: optimists do better with PR than negativists (just invented that word). It takes a true-believer to translate your passion into a message that will get others excited to learn about your company.
  10. Thankful: when you go after publicity, regardless of whether you use a PR firm or do it on your own, show the media how thankful you are. Make it a good experience for the media and they may just invite you back.

So as you can see it’s not just about the actual news pitch itself. You have to be a business owner who appreciates the value of PR and is inclined to work your ass off to make it successful.

Embrace the chaos. Don’t fear the great unknown of PR. Learn to love the unpredictability of the media.

Then, and only then, will you be ready for PR.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded his own PR firm in Austin called Dave Manzer PR and Marketing in 2009 to help small businesses become recognizable brands through creative PR campaigns. He also launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves to a wider audience. Dave’s innovative MyLocalReporter app allows small businesses to find and pitch national and local reporters in up to 12 cities in Texas, California and Florida. To book Dave as a speaker or pick his brain for the next big PR stunt, feel free to email him at: info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

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