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PR for Tech Startups: Is it needed?

By Jon Brown

Unlike big-named brands, startups have to build a name for themselves from scratch and potential customers are unlikely to trust in a brand they’ve never heard or seen of before. As such, PR can be part of an essential strategy for tech startups.

In B2B, trust is one of the most important aspects in the sales cycle. Only when you have obtained trust from your customers and stakeholders will you start to generate greater profit. So, by helping startups to boost their brand image, an effective PR campaign can be one of the best and most cost-effective ways to build a presence, helping make the brand more favourable and marketable to potential customers. 

PR in that sense could be considered as a necessity for tech startups, enabling them to build or solidify relationships with the media so as to increase their reputation and standing within the eyes of potential customers.

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PR can also help to increase interest in existing media that the startup already has relationships with, as well as widening the net into new publications where and when necessary. This is done by pitching and placing high-profile, organic news stories - rather than paid adverts - over a length of time. 

Organic PR works for tech startups because people simply don’t want to be sold to any more. Intrusive and impersonal advertising and marketing campaigns have led to fatigue for an ever growing crowd of savvy customers. People today want to make the buying decision for themselves, by reading information from reputable media publications, websites, and blogs that they know they can trust. 

Put it this way - no one is likely to trust the sole word of a company they’ve never heard of, but they would if they’ve heard the same good reviews and recommendations from other, third-party sources. By gaining organic PR coverage, tech startups can use this to their advantage, creating, nurturing, and sustaining trust.


The best PR agencies for tech startups

Finding the perfect PR agency for tech startups can be like finding a needle in a haystack, not to mention time-consuming and resource-intensive. There are a lot of different factors and elements that need to be considered in order to make an informed choice - the first of which is to sort the wheat from the chaff and come up with plenty of research.

Only by researching will you be able to build the knowledge needed to differentiate between one PR agency and another. You might have received a recommendation from a colleague or worked with a PR agency in the past, but it still helps to compare and understand the different offerings as well as the pros and cons of working with each agency. This research primarily starts with everything else on the Internet - via Google and other search engines - but you can also receive recommendations of agencies from UK PR bodies such as the CIPR or PRCA, by attending networking events, or speaking to other companies who engage with PR agencies.

Once you have done the research, the second step is to reach out and set up a quick briefing call with the PR agency to ask the important questions, such as:

  • Why choose PR over marketing or paid advertising? 
  • What kinds of benefits/results should I expect to see?
  • Has the PR agency worked in this industry/similar companies before?
  • How much does PR cost, and what is my ideal budget?

It’s important to hear the answers for yourself rather than via an email. Working with a PR agency can be the start of a long-term working relationship, and you want to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength before you kick things off. It also helps to hear the various different strategies the PR agencies will provide, and if your plan aligns with what you want to achieve. 

To help startups find the best PR agency, it is essential to establish your PR goals and objectives beforehand so everyone understands what needs to be accomplished. Ask for example target media and press clippings from your potential PR agency, and ask for case studies of past and present clients to give you an idea of how they operate and the level of success to expect.

Ultimately though, trying to find a PR agency that aligns with your goals and objectives within a specific monthly cost is obviously one of the biggest considerations. As a startup company, you might think that PR is a luxury option only available for large organisations, but there are plenty of specialist PR agencies out there that cater specifically towards startup companies. Campaigns can start small with activity based around an official launch of the business or new product, and gradually build up over time as the business grows. PR campaigns don’t have to cost the Earth to make you go global.


PR strategy for tech startups

Creating an effective PR campaign begins with figuring out who it is you’re looking to target - for example, specific job roles, vertical markets, or interests. Ideally this would be the end decision-maker, but it can also be people lower down the food chain who act as influencers. For example, have you ever had a junior colleague recommend a piece of software that you’ve ended up loving?

When building a PR strategy, start with looking at key journalists and news forums that discuss the topics that you eventually want to be a part of. The way to do this is to figure out where your potential customers get their news from and building a readership profile using media kits and audience profiles from the publications. For example, there are specific magazines that cater to startups which are likely read by investors and private equity firms looking for the next hot prospect.

Although they might seem like low-hanging fruit, don’t forget the trade press. There are many niche, yet highly targeted publications that can help you reach exactly who you want to get your startup in front of. The flip side of that are the mainstream press and national newspapers which, although hard to measure who is reading your news, can help get your brand in front of the masses.

When planning a public relations strategy for tech startups, bear in mind the following tactics:

  • Press releases: short-form announcements distributed widely to the media that let journalists know about key company news and updates. For example, that the business is entering new territory, launching a new product, or hiring C-level executives.

  • Thought leadership articles: long-form opinion pieces bylined by a company spokesperson. The aim of these is to discuss a relevant topic in detail that, when placed in the media, will position the author as an expert in that chosen field. Thought leadership is one of the best ways to gain credit and expertise, helping build that trust with potential customers as a source of useful information.

  • Interviews and podcasts: unlike with press releases and opinion articles that are written and sent to journalists, interviews and podcasts can be a great way to add some personality to the brand as well as promote a spokesperson as an industry thought leader.

  • Events: hosting your own event or attending a third-party one can be a great way to showcase the brand to potential customers as well as talk to relevant journalist attendees. Getting face-to-face time with the media is one of the best ways to create and build a long-lasting relationship with them, helping gain positive media coverage long into the future.

  • Market research: journalists love independent, primary research that explores a certain challenge or area of the market. By working with a research house, you can gain media coverage in high-level, mainstream press, gain favour with key journalists, and widen your exposure with relevant prospects.

  • Social media: as part of your own channel, utilising social media is the most cost-effective way in gaining exposure for the business. By creating and being a part of the conversation online, you can promote the brand and its spokespeople as industry experts while connecting directly with potential customers.


What’s the perfect PR budget for tech startups?

Although there’s no one true answer when it comes to PR budgets, startups should expect to set aside somewhere between £2,000 and £4,000 per month. However, the perfect PR budget is set by the level of activity and what you want the end goal to be. The greater the success, the more you’ll have to set aside, but that also doesn’t mean it has to be expensive as there is a certain limit to what startups can achieve early on.

For example, for £3,000 per month, tech startups can expect to receive dedicated press office support - i.e. a certain amount of hours for their PR agency to build relationships with journalists.  This would also cover regular thought leadership content creation to raise the media profile of key execs and reporting to provide updates on how the campaign is running against set targets and KPIs such as coverage achieved per month, backlinks created to the website, and referral traffic.

The trick is to start small and gradually grow the campaign as momentum builds and the business grows. This is because the main issue startups will face is generating stories that will be of interest to the press, such as new customer wins, partnerships, products, or investment. It takes time to build out a pipeline of regular content that can be used to pitch and place in the media, so there’s no point immediately engaging in a global campaign that won’t generate the results you’re looking for.

Be realistic in the PR budget you set - and stick to it. Having a monthly retainer helps to keep a consistent level of activity throughout the campaign, and you can always add on certain services like content writing, press releases, and market research whenever the time might be right. For example, if planning ahead on a new investment round, it might be useful to invest in a press release, opinion article, and maybe even a piece of market research.

PR for startups

Tags: PR, Startups