May 2008 Archives

PR for Start-up Businesses

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Most of the discussion around the Brian Solis article on PR has been from each individual's personal perspective, instead of a general discussion of a start-up's strategic marketing plan (

Answers to two questions can give some guidance on the best ways start-ups can use PR:

  1. Does the business sell products (or services), or is it a free Web site?
  2. Does the business provide a truly innovative product or service, or is it a "me too" product that depends on taking market share from existing companies?

In general, there are four broad ways these questions affect the PR plan:

  • Innovative, free Web sites can benefit from start-up PR on high traffic blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable because those readers are likely to be early users of a free Web site.
  • Innovative products sold into specialized target markets can benefit from pitching customer case studies to the media read by their target market.
  • Free Web sites that have almost the same features as existing sites are frequently criticized by the big blogs, and usually do best by using less public marketing techniques.
  • Products sold into an existing market should focus on being included in "roundup" articles, directories, and lists, as well as pitch high-profile customer case studies.

There's plenty of middle ground here, such as with products that add innovative features to traditional feature sets. So, it takes an experienced marketing team to figure out what's best for the company.

The question of whether to outsource to a PR firm or have the CEO do PR misses the bigger issue that it's a team effort. The PR person (staffer, freelancer, or agency), the marketing director, and the CEO need to each do what they can do best.

Whoever has the best relationship with an editor or reporter should pitch the story. If it's the CEO, that's great. If it's the PR person, that's fine -- they should just make sure to get the reporter and CEO interacting as quickly as possible.

Even the biggest and most personable CEOs have PR "handlers" with them when they work the media. This is to ensure that someone is watching the interaction and providing real-time clarifications. It's best to fix misperceptions during the interview instead of trying to get a correction after the story is published.

There's no one right way to get media attention -- even for direct competitors. But it is important for some type of public relations program to be included in every strategic marketing plan.

Rajesh Jain has a comprehensive review of the recent ad:tech conference. One part of his summary points out the high ROI for online advertising versus traditional advertising:

In the US, there is a big mismatch between time spent online and ad dollars. US Consumers are now estimated to be spending over 20% of their time online, while online ad spend ($20 billion in 2007) is only 7% of the overall ad budgets. This is seen as the big opportunity to dramatically grow the size of the online ad pie. As the US economy slows, there is a feeling that advertisers will move more money to where it can give better RoI. Print and TV are the two media which will feel the impact and pain of this shift.

His post has several strategic concepts, so bookmark it so you can refer to it during strategic planning.

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