You’ve decided to set up a new company. Congratulations! No doubt filled with that new-baby glow, you’re probably also wondering how to make your message stand out amid the crowd of other emerging businesses. You might also be wondering how your strategy will need to shift as your new company grows, or how you deal with negative press. Here’s a crash course in answering all those questions- and more.
Public Relations Is Not Just for Customers
PR is aimed at a number of different groups, from investors to employees, and it can be difficult to come up with a message that works for everyone. Be wary of this tension.
“Advertisers want you to tell the world that the company is huge, that there are lots of users [including those using the service for free],” says Angela Watts, former head of communications for Spotify, “Content providers, the artists and labels, however, don’t want to be seen as giving music away for free. So you have this conflict,”
Get Your Story Straight Early
Startups need to think about their PR narrative much earlier than they think. Indeed, big technology companies like Facebook, Google and SpaceX have all come to face larger PR problems as a result of neglecting their messaging in the early days.
“Many of the huge global tech companies are suffering from what I think of as mission hangover,” says Dex Torricke-Barton, director at Brunswick Group, “Facebook, for example, is still dealing with a reputational hangover which goes back to its early foundational story. Many people still think of it as this fly-by-night operation that was put together by a bunch of mates in a dorm room.”
You Don’t Need a Big Budget
There are a few quick, low-budget wins that any startup can aim for in the early days. Try setting up a simple press page with a few key facts about the company, peppered with some high-quality photos. To contact journalists, try tools like Journorequests and Haro (Help a Reporter Out), which pull together requests from journalists and send them to you as a daily email.
Be Prepared For Bad Press
At some point in their lifespan, every company will face a negative news story. It is vital that you prepare for this beforehand; imagine the biggest risks to your business, and pre-plan how you will respond if something blows up in your face.
Spotify’s first PR crisis, for example, came when Thom Yorke of Radiohead referred to the music streaming platform as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse”. His comments reignited controversy over the availability of “free” music online, and fair payments to artists. It’s a debate that continues to this day.
Forget the Press Release
Your key wins will come from storytelling. Drop any strategy of flowery, English grad student-esque lectures on paper; imagine you’re talking to a friend at the pub. Keep it targeted, catchy and brief.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR. Torossian recently lectured at Harvard University.
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