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.
1. Subscribe Reporters To All Of Your Company Communications.
You know that weekly wrap-up email sent your team when everything was new? You filled it with witty insights, inspiring quotes, charts, and a rundown of your team's progress. Now, you've taken the liberty of sending that email to everyone you've ever met and after an event like CES, you subscribe every reporter you meet to the list–whether or not you ask their permission.
Why You Should Stop: A. Nothing "newsworthy" happens every week, so you're waisting the reporters' time. B. Sending random company communications to reporters, that obviously goes to everyone you've ever known, looks unprofessional. C. They didn't ask to be subscribed to non-news information.
2. Stalk The Reporters You Met.
You bug them on social media, phone calls, and texts with every tiny, non-news thing your company does, and sometimes just to see what they're up to. They hear from you every other day. You're a constant presence in their lives.
Why You Should Stop: A. If you bug reporters when there isn't news, they'll learn to tune you out and ignore you, even when you have actual news. B. Constantly bugging reporters is a great way to get blacklisted. Reporters talk with each other and you don't want to get the reputation of the shameless self-promoter. C. Reporters know they're not your best friend, and if you try and contact them constantly, it's obvious you're doing it because you want something.
3. Do Nothing At All. Ever.
This is one of the most common PR mistakes startups make after CES; they meet interested reporters and they never follow up in any way. Utter silence isn't golden.
Why You Should Stop: A. It makes you look lazy. B. The reporter may forget your company completely. After all, they met hundreds of companies at CES. Why should they remember you if you don't you make an effort? C. You've wasted a great opportunity.
Instead, connect with the reporters you met at CES on LinkedIn, and be sure to send them polite company announcements a few days in advance incase they want to cover it. Make an effort to connect and get to know them on a professional level.
4. Communicate To Every Reporter The Same Way, At The Same Time.
Not all media is the same; Print magazines have a 3 to 6 month lead-time. Daily newspapers need daily stories. Contributors and feature writers often work on stories for a long time and get various points of input. TechCrunch needs to be the first to write about a company announcement (and they don't honor embargoes). Some reporters have more time to network than others. Some reporters cover a dozen topics, some cover one. Treating every single reporter the same doesn't make for an effective PR effort.
Why You Should Stop: A. It makes you look unprofessional; like you don't care about a reporter's needs. B. It makes it unlikely to get your story featured in any of the long-lead-time publications.
5. Ignore Reporters Or Take Your Sweet Time Getting Back To Them.
When a reporter does reach out to you, you take your time getting back to them or you don't get back to them at all. Sometimes a reporter will ask for your input or opinion as a quote for an upcoming story they're working on, but you decline because you don't think it's worth your time.
Why You Should Stop: A. If you don't help a reporter when they ask for something you're comfortable doing, you're waisting a great opportunity to get your company's name out there as a thought leader. B. Reporters have deadlines. If you take more than a day to get back to them, it's often too long and next time they won't contact you at all. C. Talking with reporters about your industry is one of the most important things you can do with your time.
6. Don't Tell Your PR Firm Which Reporters You Met and Know.
It's your PR firm's job to know everyone right? So why shouldn't you get some alone time with reporters when you want to without the firm having to know? This is a common mistake a lot of entrepreneures make; the assumption that they're doing themselves a favor by having secret communications with reporters, keeping their firm in the dark.
Why You Should Stop: A. You hire a PR firm to help you know reporters. At least tell your firm the 5 or 6 reporters you've met that you'd like to reach out to. Chances are, they'll have good advice as to what to say (and what not to say). B. If you're chummy with a reporter, telling them about your company's upcoming launch, and then your firm pitches the reporter the next week, with the same story, it looks unprofessional, both to the reporter and to the PR firm.
7. Assume That Your Startup's PR is Done for the Year.
Your startup was mentioned by three bloggers. You've been on TV for thirty seconds. A known online publication has interviewed you. What more could you want until the next CES?
Why You Should Stop: A. If you got quality press coverage from CES, great. But remember, you were lumped into the CES bundle of stories, and these stories will likely be soon forgotten unless you continue to get quality press mentions throughout the coming year. B. CES coverage alone is not enough to show that you have the staying power it takes to garner investors in six months, or partner with another company next quarter. C. Use these stories to launch your company's next move. Making CES coverage your stopping point wastes opportunities for future stories.
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.
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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