Avoid the 5 heinous PR mistakes that startups make

Your mother was right: You get only one chance to make a good first impression. Don’t screw it up.

The Holy Grail for many entrepreneurs is media coverage. Though this is a worthwhile goal, many startups go about it in the wrong way and fail miserably. Others may get the desired coverage but don’t effectively use the public relations value for future opportunities.

Here are the top five mistakes that startups make, and how to avoid them:

No. 1: Launching a PR campaign too soon

You’re champing at the bit to let everyone know how absolutely wonderful your idea/product/service is, and you decide that sooner is better. Sound familiar? If so, take a cold shower, and rethink your strategy.

Many companies launch in one form and, a few pivots later, end up a completely different animal. If you pitched the media on your initial idea, you will not have much luck getting anyone to pay attention a second time (unless you have street credibility from a previous startup success).

Key takeaway: Make sure you are ready for prime time before you court the press.

No. 2: The wrong pitch

You’ve pivoted once or twice, your customer base is growing, and you’re ready to get some media love. You reach out to the press, and there’s dead silence. What did you do wrong?

Journalists are always on the lookout for fresh content, but sending them a generic press release without a specific angle is going to fall flat. A much better approach is to craft a pitch that is targeted to the writer’s publication and clearly explains how your product can benefit their readers. Also, make sure you’ve actually read some of the writer’s articles and blog posts.

Key takeaway : Spend time coming up with a unique angle that provides value to a specific audience.

No. 3: Playing hide-and-seek with important information

So you’ve caught a journalist’s attention with a well-timed, well-crafted pitch, and now they want to know more. The first thing they are going to do is go to your website for additional information, and you don’t want to disappoint. If they have to dig around for what they need, they will leave and never come back.

Make their job easier by providing a digital press kit that contains a company fact sheet, the founder’s bio, and high-resolution photos of the product. Also include any previous press coverage and customer testimonials.

Key takeaway: You’ll win friends in the media by making information accessible on your website.

No. 4: Not taking advantage of media coverage

Congratulations! You’ve received some press coverage including the ultimate TechCrunch profile. Your website received a huge surge in traffic, and you’ve been asked to sit on a panel at the next startup event. Stop gloating. Do you have any idea how many companies were in the same position and then blew it?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is becoming complacent. You may have been the big news yesterday, but someone else has already taken your place. Unless you make a vigorous effort to stay top of mind, you will soon be forgotten.

The good news is that there are many ways to leverage press coverage, including the following:

  • Post the article on your website, and include it in your press kit;
  • Tweet about it to your audience, and ask them to spread the good cheer;
  • Post a snippet on your Facebook fan page with a link to the article on your website;
  • Write an educational blog post about a common problem in your industry, and link to the article as an example of one of the solutions;
  • Use quotes from the article in your sales and marketing materials.

No. 5: Not following up

It’s amazing how many people forget to make the simple yet powerful gesture of personally thanking a journalist for writing about their startup. Try sending a personal email, a DM tweet, or just pick up the phone and say thank you. You’ll not only stand out from the crowd, but you will also make a good impression and build a foundation for a long-term relationship.

What PR mistakes have you made? What did you learn?

Susan Emmer is a marketing expert who specializes in helping entrepreneurs, small businesses, and socially conscious companies increase brand awareness and sales. A version of this article first appeared on Silicon Beach Marketing’s blog.

Topics: PR

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