In working with many startups, one of their key objectives is capturing the attention of customers, bloggers and reporters, partners and investors. The problem is many of them have little idea about how to do it other than writing a press release, and then crossing their fingers that it will somehow catch someone’s attention.
At a basic level, the big challenge is creating stories that resonate with target audiences. For any company, particularly startups with no track records, a good story is crucial because it gives someone a reason to be interested or care. The story could be about the company itself, consumer or industry trends, or how the service/product is unique or meeting a need in a different way.
Truth be told, good storytelling is difficult to do because it means stepping away from simply telling the world what you do and the wonders of your service or product.
So how do startups get the love and attention they desire? Here’s a few tips:
1. Think big. One of the biggest mistakes made by startups is they focus on what they’re doing, which, in the scheme of things, is relatively small. In a very small number of cases, their product or service might be newsworthy but it’s a long shot. Instead, startups need to focus on how they fit into the big picture. How is their product/service part of an overall trend that is capturing the attention of consumers? It means creating a big picture story in which the startup plays a role as opposed to being the star of the show.
2. Leverage your data. For startups that collect data about what their users are doing or what’s happening in their market, data can be a powerful marketing vehicle. A good example is Sysomos (a client), which created mini-reports on social media activity such as the behaviour of Twitter users around the world. These reports contained enough data goodness that bloggers were all over them. As a result, Sysomos got tremendous coverage and lots of attention.
3. Build relationships. “Cold pitching” a story to a reporter or blogger isn’t a formula for success unless you have an amazing story. Instead, startups need to identify their target audiences, and then build relationships over time. It’s an investment that takes time but it creates a more receptive audience that can be leveraged when needed. Building relationships can involve meeting people for coffee, sending them tips or insight about industry developments or news, seeking them out at conferences, or leaving a comment on their blogs.
4. Timing is everything. Too many startups try to capture the spotlight when they have nothing to talk about other than how they have launched a service. It may be interesting news to the startup but it’s “meh” for everyone else. Instead, startups should wait until they have something interesting to talk about. It could be a major industry development that impacts them or their business. In other words, it’s okay to wait until the time is right rather than trying to force it.
5. Success is sexy. Nothing gets people more interested than success stories. For startups, being able to show people what you’re doing is resonate with customers is a compelling story. It could be getting 10,000 users or striking deals with high-profile partners. It demonstrates that what you’re doing is interesting to customers so, in theory, is should be interesting to other people too.
6. Don’t think that hiring a PR is recipe for success. PR agencies can offer value but it is hard for them to perform miracles if they don’t have a good story to tell. Too many companies hire a PR company, only to discover there is no return on their investment. Startups should start by hiring a PR agency on a contract basis to see how they perform. It’s also important for startups to provide PR agencies with marketing collateral and draft pitches so a lot of money isn’t spent on preparatory “grunt” work.