Not all stories are as inherently compelling as Batkid's (as told in another feature in YEC Quarterly), but at some point, nearly every brand wants their story told. Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, CEO and Co-Founder of AirPR, has been collecting data through the AirPR Marketplace about why -- and when -- companies seek PR.
PR is an investment, so take the time to do it right like you would any other area of your business. Take the time to really think about your positioning, narrative, and key messaging before you decide to do any big PR push.
“The most surprising thing was to see the breakdown of reasons why companies were coming to the Marketplace to seek vetted PR pros. The business objective that triggers the ‘we need PR’ thought truly varies across the board,” he says. Whenever a company enters the AirPR Marketplace, they are able to rank 6 objectives from most to least important. The results are as follows:
- Launch: 36 percent
- Fundraising: 25 percent
- Recruiting: 16 percent
- Growth: 84 percent
- Brand Awareness: 69 percent
- Exit: 15 percent
Growth and brand awareness are top of mind, with an upcoming launch a distant third. Given this, we polled several PR experts in YEC to share the insider advice they’d offer their own clients.
Take inventory of what makes your startup special, whether it’s your own background, the story of how your company was conceived, or what differentiates you from your competitors -- both direct and indirect -- in the marketplace. Then, begin reaching out to your local newspapers geographically located where your company is based, as well as blogs, digital outlets, and print mediums that specifically cover your industry vertical.
What is one guerrilla marketing tactic you recommend YEC members explore?
More than almost any other tactic, whether it’s slapping bumper stickers on a street pole or creating a media stunt, which could go horribly wrong or not make an ounce of difference, guest blogging gives you the opportunity to leverage another brand or individual’s web presence or credibility in the marketplace to substantially elevate you from simply a business owner and entrepreneur selling products or services to a thought leader who has important things to share about the industry in which you reside, and more importantly, a perspective.
If you are wary, start small. I believe everyone needs some sort of PR to get their message to the masses.
What is one tip you would give a startup that wants to get a celebrity or prominent influencer to be seen with their product?
The most important aspect of this is making sure the celebrity or influencer is the right representation for the brand's overall message. The next step to follow would be to go through the proper channels to see about engaging the celebrity or influencer and seeding product to them.
The most important step you can take before you jump-start your PR efforts is to define your goals, your target audience, and what it is that you hope PR can do for your company. Once you do that, you'll feel more confident assessing whether PR is right for your company at this time and if so, whether you should hire a firm or keep it in-house.
What ingredients are required for an effective social campaign?
The best way to design an effective social campaign is to use a mix of original content from your company, commenting on industry trends, sharing important/relevant industry news, sharing your company's updates, and any press you or your company has received. Finding the right platform to push out content is crucial. For example, Twitter is best for B2B related content, Facebook is often best for B2C and Instagram for visual merchandise.
Consider PR when you're looking for validation for your current and future investors and end consumers. Don't bring on PR with the belief it will be your outsourced sales tool.
What makes a brand "TV-worthy?"
TV is visual, so you either a) need to have a brand that is naturally visual, such as a consumer product that can be easily demonstrated or showcased in a round-up of "gifts for Mother's Day" or "brands that give back," etc. or b) have a way to make it visual. If your company helps kids in low-income schools learn about performing arts, could you bring kids for a performance or show b-roll footage? Help the producer understand the visual elements so you're not just offering a talking head.
Before going on TV...
Never look AT the camera. You are talking to the host or interviewer, and it should look like a conversation. The camera crew will worry about the angles and such to get the right shots.
My one tip would be to create an amazing product. Never put PR before your product. You get one shot at a successful launch and you want to share the best product possible with the media. When you hire a PR agency you should have an idea of what kind of goals you want to achieve. If you have competitors, share what kind of press coverage your competitors have had recently as well. It'll help the agency create its PR plan.
What is one major misconception you wish you could dispel for future clients?
PR is difficult. I've been out to dinner with journalists who clear their inbox before and after dinner an hour later they already have another 50 emails. Most of these pitches are not targeted and of no interest to the reporter opening the email. Instead of just pitching the same press release to every writer, you should research which reporter would be best to share your story and reach out to that one writer.
This feature originally appeared in our Winter 2015 issue of YEC Quarterly, our print magazine for YEC members.