Whether you’re at the onset, midway or close to completing your online fundraising for your new business venture, it’s never too early to embrace the basics of public relations to understand how you can set yourself up for initial and ongoing success.
As you may suspect, modern day public relations is so much more than a perfectly polished press release and the right media connections. This is good news for scrappy entrepreneurs if they’re willing to embrace a larger strategy that includes owned, earned, and paid media (hint: start with owned, which is the content you produce yourself, such as your website, social content, and blogs).
And if you’re wondering when to dive in, the answer is now. As much as you’d like all media to find your business or product relevant the moment it’s born into the marketplace, the reality is: it takes a lot of energy to generate a warm welcome from the world. The most successful public relations strategies start laying the groundwork for Launch Day months in advance.This is not to say you can’t luck into synergies that create some spontaneous attraction, but even then you’ll want to capture and build on that momentum.
Create Your Assets
Lay the groundwork for a successful PR strategy by thoughtfully creating assets upfront that will continue to serve you long-term. At a minimum, these assets include imagery, bios, handles for social media accounts, a mobile-responsive website, contact info for your networks and brand ambassadors (see my article on building an intentional email list), and high-quality media assets (including photography, video, product, and fact sheets).
Public relations is about creating awareness and growing an audience on an ongoing basis. It’s not simply outbound messaging you share when you have big news; it’s about serving up your business story in the right context with the right timing to the right audience, all the time. Having these assets in place will help you accomplish that.
Craft Your Story
“Story” is a widely used term, and rightfully so – it’s the compelling relational element that stirs emotion and makes brands and business offerings memorable. Instagram and Snap have Stories on their channels; Twitter has Moments (but not very many of them!). For public relations purposes, think of stories as your avenue to shape a public relations (or communications) strategy based on innovation, collaboration (think influencers), and relevancy.
Lucky for entrepreneurs, they have plenty of opportunities to share their elevator pitch and refine their brand’s story. For this exercise, I’d suggest starting with three stories, each about different end users you envision.
Create a picture of your end user and their lifestyle. Share in a story session what they’re doing and what their behavior is like before they meet you or your brand. Draw circles, note their influencers, communities, pain points, and passion points. Then recreate the day and insert your brand into the picture. What ideas rise to the top? What groups, brands, communities, or influencers do you want to reach? Focus on one story for each end user. Then define the specific relationships you have along your story’s pathway that you can leverage in your public relations efforts.
For example, say you want to promote your mobile app that helps commuters navigate connected transit in their city in real-time, like Metro Transit’s app. Your story might follow a millennial, commuter-based lifestyle. After overlaying your brand into that story, look for intersections that involve other brands, businesses and communities. In this case, you might walk away with outreach efforts to building managers with high percentage of millennials, the bike/coffee shop nearby and a custom-craft shop that makes commuter cases like Chrome.
Connect with these entities and you’ll be building your influencer groups and creating a feedback loop for your end-user story. This information should inform your owned media (your own content), build relationships with like-minded brands and serve as your platform for earned media. This strategy also aligns with the way people in media discover stories and brands, which today is more influencer-based and driven by online content search than relying on what’s in their inbox.
Created and Crafted, Now What?
The two most important initial steps in your PR journey are:
• Laying the groundwork by choosing communications channels that are most relevant for your business and using them regularly and well
• Crafting stories that connect with your audience and defining your influencer groups
Note that the tasks mentioned in this post can be done with your marketing or branding person (groundwork) and with a team of trusted advisors or solo (stories).
The next steps include defining what information you’re going to share and who you’re going to share it with – essentially your press release and your media list. We invite you to vote on which topic you’d like to see addressed and ask any questions you may have so we can tailor our content for follow-up blog posts. Maybe you’d like to see real-world samples of how these concepts play out – let us know that too!
Jennifer Gilhoi, Spark Track Consulting