How To Do Your Own PR: DIY Public Relations for Startups

January 31, 2018

The main issue I’ve faced after starting in the startup is lack of news. No, of course, there was something happening all the time around me and us in general. But, was it worthy to be told? Would my story be interesting for media and readers? I had to invent, yes invent, dig to find something really catchy. Based on my previous experience, I know that the reason to make a public relations (PR) can be sometimes really funny or strange, but it still works. You can sell the air, if someone wants to buy it.So, if nothing newsworthy is happening around you, or you think that nothing newsworthy is happening around you, just invent it. You can also brainstorm with your colleagues, one head is good, two heads better. And don’t bother about journalists. Most of them are not scary, and are hunting for the new stuff much more than you. The most attractive for them is finding something “NEW”. What a fine word!


For startups it is usually launch of product or new feature, with a lot of people to join the show. News about raising money and investment are very eye-catching as well. Everybody is counting somebody else’s money, right? Hiring new cool guy or expanding a team is a story, local, but still a story. Or joining an event, especially well-known in Silicon Valley or in your sector, is really newsworthy. But still there is no rating or cure-all, so, make a list and move.From the strategy point of view, think about the 3 major messages: your vision, how you will make a difference, how you intent to change the world. It might seem to be complicated, but first make a list of 10–15 keywords that come to your mind when you are thinking about your product. SAAS for…, mobile app to help…, new social app to improve… You don’t have to build your all story on these messages, but they should be always your red line, implicit message coming under all your stories.


Press release is still a classical version of sharing your story with media people. Think it is too old-fashioned? Don’t! Because most of the journalists are not too much into technology, so, just find the simplest way to grab their attention. It’s better that your pitch is not longer than one page, mapped and structured. So, let’s start:Title: Someone Boosting SomethingSub-title: One sentence giving just more sense about your titleFirst paragraph: 5Ws. Don’t make sentences too long. First paragraph can be two-three sentences long, giving information about:What is happening?When it is happening?Where it is happening?Move with Who is it coming together? (it can be a target audience, early adopters, hackers, investors…)And then the reason Why it is happening?Second paragraph: Give more details. Version 1.0? New feature? If it is an investment; then who is investing and what is the plan?Third paragraph: Give a quote from a CEO/Investor/Celebrity. Make it more motivational and impressive. Mention the trends, why these people are here, and the vision to change the world. When there is something coming from a real person, it always works twice.Forth paragraph: Brief info about the company, founded in, founded by, mission statement.Final part: Give contacts of the spokesperson. This is the person who is ready to answer the questions. Also mention if they want to schedule an interview, so they can always reach for you.


Ok, let’s consider that your press release is ready. But first of all what we have to do is to make a journalist open an attachment. Email that we send should be well-articulated, polite and positive. You should address directly to the journalist, mentioning that it might be interesting for him/her. Subject line should be short, with no personalisation, as you are writing to the person you know. The reason I recommend to craft a message properly is because this is the first thing the journalist will read. It should be genuine and realistic, like proving that you are not a robot.At the same time, press release is being used by journalists to cover the story. They might use dates, names, and feature details. The tone of the article can be different depending on the type of news portal. When it comes to startups usually the article is on the technology or economic section. If the press release is standard for everybody, mail message can or should be different depending on the target audience. Make sure the journalist feels that you are addressing him/her personally, this is the main factor to pick-up your story.


Before you send the shuttle into the open space, make a research. What are the news websites to cover your story? Can it be technology websites, like TechCrunch, Mashable or FastCompany or sectorial and local publications, like or is important to screen who is writing on the topics related to your business, who specializes in this area, who are your competitors etc. Make a list of journalists you are interested, and try to establish personal relations with them. Networking is a part of communications.Sometimes mentioning “Exclusivity” is very impressive. Journalists want to be first covering something new, so this tactic can be extremely useful. However, it is very important to mention about the time and the fact that the ‘prize’ goes to the first person contacting you and interested in covering your story.


Congratulations! Your story was really cool and managed to grab attention. First of all, say “Thank you!” A short note is quite fine. However, you can invite the journalist for breakfast to warm it up, or for the next big event on your side. Small swags are really sweet. And remember, it’s not a bribe, you are just trying to convert him into your good will ambassador.Think about what else you give to a journalist? Kind of press kit, your photo and a photo of your co-founders, brief bios, your company in numbers, or a tshirt. And, you can be sure, next time when this journalist will write about the sector, new trends and developments, he/she will definitely mention your product. Oh, what can be better, than the fact that somebody is making a reference about you or your product.


Don’t be humble! Share publication via all your social media accounts, blog and website. It would be great to include the story in the mailing and share it with all investors, partners, customers and employees. You can split the story on several pieces and share parts of it every week or so.And, you can be sure, that one post brings more. Public relations is like a snowball, after you had a good first shoot, it can create a really good echo of interest from the media side. Snowball effect is what we want!

Sabina Babayeva
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