What’s the story?

If you’re a start-up or very early stage company thinking about PR, there are a few things to consider before you begin, says Lizzie Slee, head of media for Start Up Britain and Enterprise Nation.

  • Is your offering or product ready?
  • Have you tested it?
  • Is it newsworthy?
  • Have you reaped social media to within an inch of its life?

Start-ups can often waste time and money on PR that fails, when they might really need to spend more time on the development of the business itself.

Throwing money at PR in these early stages before you are ready can be a waste.  It may be better to spend it on making sure your products or services work in the marketplace by testing, market research and gathering honest opinion.

Having said that, I think there is some merit in speaking to a PR professional and asking them to look at your business and to write a one-pager on your ‘story’.  It can be very hard to have that degree of objectivity when you’re building a business, so this is a useful early exercise – which might actually help you build newsworthiness into your business strategy.

This one-pager is also useful content for your website – a clear, concise summary of what your business actually does.  It can also help form the basis for press releases and what you say to journalists when the time is right.

Cracking the code

Your website is your shop window, so you need to make it clear to anyone looking at it, including journalists, what it is you’re offering.

If I had a tenner for every website I’ve looked at that fails to say what the business is about, I could retire!  Often what I see instead is waffle about ‘disrupting traditional markets’, ‘adding a new twist’ and ‘using technology to revolutionise the way we consume traditional light sources’.  But what it fails to say is that the business is making scented candles.  When you speak or a PR person speaks to journalists about your brand, it needs to be obvious what your business actually does. Journalists haven’t got time to go to Bletchley Park to crack the code.

PR often takes between six to nine months to start to work, ie your business begins to get traction and people begin to become familiar with your offering. Once that happens, keeping up the momentum is important, and this is when you might consider paying for some PR help.

How to DIY PR

But if you don’t want to pay for additional PR support, there are some ways you can do PR yourself.

Most businesses have two or three targets:

  • business to business
  • trade
  • consumer

So if you’re sending out a business to business press release, it is most likely going to be about how and why you started up . If it’s for local press, mention something that connects you to that area, such as a local school that you went to.  Talk about what you did before and why you made a change.

A press release to the trade will be your opportunity to reach potential stockists, so this release needs to outline why your business is unique and some technical detail.  If you’re in fashion, you might be talking to Drapers for example – if it’s an app, perhaps it’s Tech Crunch.

A consumer release will need to be a product piece with a link to a picture (include a low res picture as a small attachment or in the email so they can see the product). Never speculatively send high res, it’s a big no no as it will clog up the recipients’ inboxes. This piece needs to outline the services offered or product details, sizes, ranges, colours, spec and tech.  This is very important.

Remember to add a quote from yourself.  The best place for this is early on, for example around paragraph three. And always include your contact details.

Avoid sending your press release as an attachment. Instead, copy the release into the body of the email so that it’s easy to read and work out if it’s a good story.

You can add a covering note highlighting the best angle as you see it.  Send it only to carefully-chosen journalists you think might be interested in your story – work this out by reading, researching and making calls to news desks.

Let it land.

Then ring the following day and tell them about your story.  You can send it over again if they ask.

And keep everything crossed.

Good luck!

Lizzie Slee PR

Lizzie Slee is head of media for national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain, small business network Enterprise Nation and also runs her own business helping small businesses get their stories into the media www.lizziepin.com


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