You've survived the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and even earned your startup a few media mentions in the process. You're finally taking off. As far as you're concerned, your name belongs up there with Musk, Zuckerberg, and Curie.
You may think the bulk of your PR work is done for the year, but it's only just begun. The difference between startups that flicker and fade and those who become household brands is all about media presence–continued media presence. Here are the most common PR mistakes startups make after CES.
Have you ever had a PR campaign that just didn't work? Are you planning a new campaign? Here's the top 8 reasons PR campaigns fail and what you should avoid.
1. You're Starting Too Late
Do you have a story that has to "go live" this week? Next week? You're too late. Sure, you can try and see what happens, but you need to have sent out your stories at least two to four weeks in advance.
Looking to get coverage in a print magazine, try three months or more in advance.
Looking to get your new product/service on a major TV show? That could easily take 6 months of hard work and dedication.
Do you have a holiday campaign coming up? Start in August or September. After that, it's too late.
Starting with a new PR firm? Bring them on, at least a month before you need to start pitching anything.
2. Your Story Is Not Really News
Did your startup just get a new logo? Unless you're Uber or Apple, nobody cares. Get over yourself.
A story has to include something new and noteworthy, as well as how it impacts customers, and the larger world.
3. You Chose the Wrong Hook
If you're talking about your hot new algorithm, but fail to connect that to how it will save PC users billions of hours a year, you're doing it wrong.
Consider the biggest impact your story will have on someone who does not care about your brand already. That is your hook.
4. You Don't Pitch Enough Reporters
What's that you say? You pitched a whopping total of twenty reporters across publications like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Kotaku, The Verge, etc? That's ADORABLE! Good luck!
This kind of strategy only works if you're already famous. Unless these reporters have told you when they will drop your story, don't hold your breath.
You should be reaching out to hundreds of reporters (at least), and paying for a press release on one of the known distro sites to kickstart your story. Not sure how to contact hundreds of reporters? Hire a PR firm.
5. You Don't Pitch the Right Reporters
Not every story is something TechCrunch will break to the world. If you have a "lifestyle" story, go to lifestyle-focused blogs, websites, writers, shows, etc. Consider who your customer is and what media they consume. Start there. Sure, pitch to TechCrunch too, but don't expect them to break the ice for you.
6. You Ignore Reporter Requests
If you've pitched a reporter and they ask you for further information, an interview, images, etc., and you ignore them, or take several days to get back to them, you're missing out.
You don't have to fly across the country for a tiny TV station interview with a viewership of 50 people (unless you want to), but you should have the decency to write back to reporters who ask this and more of you. If you don't have time, again, consider hiring a PR firm or a PR manager.
7. You Pitch at the Wrong Time
Pitch early in the week, at a time that works for all time-zones. Don't pitch on a Friday and expect anyone to write same-day. Don't pitch at midnight. Don't pitch on a major holiday.
Did a disaster just happen? Is something else consuming the news cycle. Hold your story for a few days if you have to. Wait for things to cool down. Then pitch.
8. Your Pitch is 100% Wrong
Most people start here, but I've saved this one for last because everything else has to work, in order for the pitch to work.
A good pitch:
• Is short, and to-the-point, complete with supporting links, and no attachments.
• Is sent at a respectful time of day, to the right reporter.
• Is not typically sent randomly over social media (unless the reporter requests it).
• Is not presumptuous, rude, or manipulative.
• May follow-up on the same story once or twice, but no more, unless the reporter replies.
Most failed PR campaigns occur because they ignored one or more of the steps above. Get these steps right, and your campaign will be much more successful.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications strategist who helps brands advance in growing industries. Her clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME Magazines’s best site of the year, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more.
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Jacobson Communication is a Pacific Northwest boutique public relations firm that helps startups, upstarts, and emerging brands get the attention needed to drive positive brand engagement. From sales, to biz dev, to company enrichment, you'll be surprised what better communications can do for your brand.
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