Amidst the layers of competition, many tech startups find it difficult to develop the exposure they need to become successful. Increasingly, there is this need to differentiate your startup from others, as the competition gets more and more crowded.
In early 1986, my dad was advised by a friend to invest in a startup called Microsoft. My dad's friend was certain that this “Microsoft” company would change the movement of our society and eventually be worth millions, if not billions. At the time, my dad was interested in investing in his children's future and he thought Microsoft would be the perfect solution, but my mom was in need of a new washer and dryer. I think you know the outcome of this story.
When I hear this story, I think of the public relations professional who pitched Microsoft to the publications my parents read. That PR professional didn't give up when the journalists didn't care to hear about Microsoft at the very beginning. That PR professional was determined to spread the word. Isn’t that how all companies should approach PR?
PR for a startup tech company means managing information and how it is communicated to stakeholders (investors, employees, partners, clients, leads, etc), with the aim to frame your company or brand in a positive narrative, in the right places. The goal here is to increase brand awareness, establish credibility in your industry, and grow your authority/expertise. You can explore PR by pursuing and pitching to journalists, or releasing your own press releases.
There are multiple benefits to utilizing tech PR for your startup.
- Builds trust and credibility → the more your brand is seen in places that are considered trustworthy by your target audience, the more familiar people become with your organization. The more familiar they are with your brand, the more interest that can be generated, and trust will grow over time. Consider where your target audience would see your brand, especially places they trust.
- Positions you uniquely as a thought leader → by regularly updating your communication channel with regular content and up-to-date information about your industry, the more relevant your brand will appear. This is invaluable in the world of tech startups in an increasingly technological world. Another benefit of being considered a thought leader, or a modern company concerned with the world around you, is being featured on other sites and an increase in organic exposure to your target audience.
- Creates a brand image to utilize → with PR, you can create a brand image that represents your organization. With this image, you can build up associations with your brand, society’s view of you, and more. Think of how Apple slowly created the brand image of being creative, modern, and artistic. They utilize that image to this day in their marketing and advertising!
With all these benefits, it’s clear to see that tech PR can benefit your organization. But is it right for all sizes of tech startups? Or should smaller companies focus on bringing in revenue first?
Why PR Benefits Small Tech Companies
PR can absolutely benefit small tech companies in the following ways:
- PR can offer a great value to companies who need to establish credibility. PR shows your credentials, experience in the industry, benefits of your company, and gives you consistent visibility in relevant publications. The more credibility you have, the more trust and growth in your target audience.
- Smaller startup teams can more quickly react to the news cycle. While it seems like larger teams would respond better, they are often highly specialized or focused on big picture items only. A small team means that you can see news and react much faster, with less red tape to cut through to present information to the public.
- More creativity. A smaller team often means a smaller budget, which encourages an environment of innovation and originality to circumvent any limitations of the budget. You can explore creativity and new strategies to grow your startup and find ways around tight regulations. With smaller startups, you can pursue more creative or out-there ideas, and again, you’ll find less red tape here.
General PR Strategies & Specific Tech PR Tips
Now that we’ve determined how helpful PR can be for tech startups of any size, it is critical to understand strategies that bring startups success. In general, there are key tips to consider with PR. The main point to take away here:
PR can be difficult to get started, since you might have limited credibility or authority in your field to start. You may get discouraged by multiple dismissals or unopened emails from journalists. Keep going! Keep in mind that journalists and publications are bombarded with work 24/7. The key to getting through to them is persistence and politeness. By believing in your organization and offering different ideas to different publications, you will find that persistence will pay off eventually.
Consider writing quick and sharp messages to different organizations/publications. Craft your message to be something like:
"Hello (publication/journalist name). My tech startup, (company name), is currently working on (current goals/new services coming out). The goal is to help (your target audience/markets) solve (the problem your business can solve for the target audience).”
Explore the unique solution and value you bring to your target audience’s problem. Pitch that solution and image to get the best out of your PR!
Consider these “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for contacting the media to engage in PR.
- Personalize your emails to that journalist and/or publication. Address your email to the journalist by name, or the publication department you are looking to communicate with.
- Discuss why your pitch has value to that specific journalist. Are you addressing larger societal issues? Does that reporter focus on tech issues that you are helping to solve? What have they written before?
- Pitch your story with the intro statement, and then a max 5 sentence story pitch. Reporters get tons of emails everyday. Minimize your pitch to the bare essentials, so they have the time to read the whole email. Then, offer communication opportunities for going more in depth.
- Experiment! Try different calls-to-action, different subject lines, different greetings. Testing different ideas means you can measure the success of different wording/variations.
- Politely follow-up and ask for feedback. If you don’t hear back, don’t send a million emails. Politely follow-up a week later to see if they read your pitch or if they aren’t interested. Ask for feedback to see if you should change your approach to other journalists.
- Send generic emails. They might go directly to spam folders, limiting your reach entirely.
- Implicitly or explicitly imply that the publication would be “lucky” to work with you. Journalists and publications tend to be turned off by this attitude. Avoid using this language.
- Write long, hyper-detailed emails. Reporters are busy; long emails, will never be read.
- Email a long list of general publications. Do your research into what publications your target audience is reading. This way, you are choosing publications that your target audience is reading. Your PR will turn into conversions, rather than impressions on an audience that isn’t interested.
While persistent PR and the above tips for contacting media are important, there are also some areas to consider for tech PR specifically. Consider the following as a tech startup:
- Focus on how your tech or tech startup is unique. This will help differentiate you from the competition and stand out in the crowded world of tech companies. What makes your company different from anyone else? What problem are you looking to solve for your target audience? Focus on these elements to pitch your story- and get it read.
- Be careful of using too much technical jargon. Experts or those in technical fields will understand it, but the target audience you are attempting to communicate with may not. Cater your use of technical jargon to the audience of the publication/PR outlet so you attract the right audience and appropriately share your message.
- PR for tech companies needs to move quickly. The world of technology evolves so fast, you have to appear to be keeping up! Remain on the cutting edge of the tech evolution and tech news in order to remain relevant in the crowded landscape. Be prepared to be far more agile in your PR strategies here.
As a tech startup, you must engage in PR to differentiate yourself and connect to your target audience. By understanding tech PR, the importance of engaging in PR as a small startup, and PR strategies, you’ll gain a competitive edge in a crowded world of startups. Worried about starting PR for your tech startup? Metis Communications is a leading strategic communications and PR firm, considered a creative expert in our field. Check out our PR guide for startups now- then call with questions!