What is ‘PR’ and why is it important to consider in the preliminary phases of your entrepreneurial venture? Why take the time, or spend the money, to market for public awareness in the media? How does media exposure lead to more revenue and capital, especially in the long term?
Understanding the answers to these questions and knowing the essentials of the public relations process will support the short and long-term growth potential of your business.
PR. Public Relations.
The noble field of public relations is the secret sauce of all great business launches and the not-so-silent supporter of a firm’s image, relevance, and bottom line. PR strategies involve all the essential elements of the marketing science to communicate in the most effective manner, using the most appropriate channels to connect with prospects, investors, and the public. Traditional marketing revolves mostly around engaging with potential consumers. PR takes this further to broadly consider a firm’s or individual’s relationship with all stakeholders in the market.
Going through this process helps the startup venture get a better understanding of exactly what they offer, what they do best, who to target, and what messages will speak best to the needs of each audience. The planning and identification phases are only the beginning of the PR process. The next step is distribution of the message. This can be the most challenging aspect of the PR business. The distribution process involves preparing effective press releases, making effective pitches to media representatives, coordinating publications, organizing events, and building momentum.
An example of the effectiveness of PR can be seen in the ‘One is not a Choice’ campaign for Tulo, a mattress startup, that ran from October to December of 2017. The coordinated public relations marketing campaign focused on the core benefits of the product and the needs of the target market. Using a varied mix of traditional and digital marketing channels, the firm successfully differentiated itself in the extremely competitive marketplace for sleep products. The campaign resulted in over 80 features in the media and allowed the firm to reach its initial sales goals during the launch period.
Marketing Considerations as a Startup
The first thing to do when developing your public relations marketing strategy is identify your core competencies. These are functional areas where your business performs especially well in a way that contributes to the value offered to consumers and investors. The next step is segmenting your market to determine the ideal prospect and develop appropriate messages. Messaging is the formulation of statements and offers made to the public. Each segment of your market and audience will have unique needs and expectations with respect to your offerings and require marketing messages that precisely address their desires and concerns.
A specialized type of message used in public relations marketing is the unique value proposition (UVP). The UVP is a brief and clear statement of what you do and the compelling reason to choose your venture over a competitor. Studying and understanding your core competencies and ideal customers, you can create products and messages that embody and highlight the value offered by your solution. If you have a launch date scheduled, you can capitalize on the opportunity to do pre-promotions to build anticipation, awareness, generate social capital, and secure preorders and the interest of investors.
Doing it Yourself Vs. Hiring a PR Firm
Creating a viable PR strategy and implementing the plan are sophisticated tasks, which property executed by a firm’s principals and executives can be very effective. With expert guidance by experienced consultants, you can achieve much faster and more economical results. Working with PR professionals allows you to skip the learning curve and save the time and expense of planning and managing your PR. Public relations professionals have extensive contacts in the media and the relationships necessary to achieve broad coverage in the marketplace.
Marketing in the media through conventional paid advertising is extremely expensive and can lead to tremendous sunk-costs when ineffective marketing strategies are launched, and product or service adoption is minimal. Well-connected PR firms can acquire a variety of media coverage opportunities at little to no advertising expense. As 30-second spots in broadcast media run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and print advertising costs tens of thousands, the reasonable fees of PR professionals are modest in comparison.
Manish Dudharejia, a PR savvy serial entrepreneur and VentureBeat contributor, cites getting the timing right and capturing the audience as two crucial components of a successful PR campaign. Even the best conceived plan will fail if the message is delivered too early or late in the PR cycle. Releases must be timed with corresponding events to ensure relevance and capture the target market’s attention at the moments they’re planning and taking action. The messaging that accompanies a startup launch needs to uniquely target each segment of the market or audience and be delivered via relevant channels that effectively drive conversions.
More than Clients. Financing!
The dramatic improvement that media coverage can have on traffic and conversions more than offsets the expense of hiring a PR team to support the stratospheric launch of your venture. Potential investment partners will also appreciate the value and recognize your credibility in adding PR professionals to your team and including them in your strategic plan and pitch deck. Investors, business angels, venture capitalists, and private money lenders actively observe the media and pay attention to new market entrants.
If your innovative venture isn’t featured in the media, how will investors know about how great an opportunity you’re offering and the excellent returns. Raising capital is a crucial objective for any venture, startup or at maturity. Among the key causes of business failure, for ventures of any size, is under-capitalization, or insufficient capital raising activities and results to maintain operation past the break-even point and support sustained benchmark-exceeding growth. If your startup strategy includes crowdfunding, an initial public offering (IPO), or initial coin offering (ICO), PR is essential to stimulate awareness, trust, and excitement in the investment community.
Increasing Your Exposure
Defining a marketing strategy for your business is one of the most important initial steps of a sound strategic plan. Employing PR tools and professionals will increase your exposure in the marketplace, raise funding, effectively position your product and brand, and lead to greater sales and revenue. For help with your PR strategy, consider partnering with a public relations firm that understands your business model and needs as a startup venture in a dynamic economic period.