Many entrepreneurs have experienced the frustration of watching an early-stage competitor (or even a colleague) score a spot in a “Top 10” list or a feature in a leading tech publication, some even before they have a product or any clients.
The usual response: “hey…that just ain’t fair!”
Any entrepreneur who successfully founds a company knows that business, like life, ain’t always fair. But there’s a good reason so many business leaders are peeved to see less-worthy competitors in the media.
Indeed, most tech entrepreneurs intuitively understand the power of a well-executed public relations campaign, even before they’ve mounted one themselves. Done right, PR is a rocket ship that can launch a company to new heights. An aggressive, well-timed PR campaign can help generate funding opportunities, partnerships, higher recruitment, better retention, higher valuation, and ultimately a successful exit.
Like many aspects of starting a business, timing is everything in PR, both on the micro level: when will our upcoming announcement make the biggest splash? What news story is worth weighing in on? How swiftly can we contact journalists?; And the macro – when is it time to invest in PR?
Answering the latter question is the first hurdle on the path to PR success.
When is a Company Ready to Invest in PR?
This is the question entrepreneurs ask me regularly, as early-stage founders often come to Headline Media seeking our help to close a funding round or to raise their profile as they seek investors.
In this sense, PR is the classic chicken-and-egg problem: Don’t you need to spark some buzz to secure funding? Or will announcing current funding, however small, fuel media attention for a future round? While most of these fledgling companies aren’t yet ready to invest in a PR firm, we tell them, it’s never too early to invest in PR itself.
In other words, you should invest your time in a PR mindset from Day One, even before PR becomes a staple of your budget. Having worked with over 30 unicorns in a variety of tech spaces, I’ve come to recognize that those who strike PR gold are always the ones who start building their company with PR in mind, even before they start working with a PR firm.
So, how exactly can a founder secure this PR foundation for their company? Start by identifying the 10 most relevant journalists covering your space and consume every piece of content they publish; get a feel for what topics interest them, whom they’re covering, and the narratives they’re conveying; think about where you might fit into this media ecosystem as you strategize future announcements and product rollouts. This is the best method for starting to get an idea of how to tell your company’s story in a way that will effectively resonate with the press and their readers. Fail to read the outlets covering your competitors, and you’ll find yourself at a loss regarding how to position your company in the public eye.
If the groundwork is laid properly, once you’ve secured significant funding, built a working product, or locked down top-notch clients and partnerships, you’ll be ready to invest your resources in a more tangible, long-term PR strategy that will bring ROI. A sustained, tangible presence in the media is what will keep you in the hearts and minds of the stakeholders that count.
You Don’t Have to Be the Exception to be Exceptional
While Headline Media has taken on a handful of seed-stage clients – companies like Lemonade, Next Insurance, and Venn – these companies all shared something: Alongside their massive seed raises, they came to the table with a near-fully formed vision of the story they wanted their company to tell, and the conversation they wanted to lead in their space. It was no accident that these natural storytellers were able to raise massive seed rounds from investors in the first place.
Ultimately, all the glowing media coverage in the world can’t build a company that hasn’t already started building itself. But if you focus on the fundamentals of your business and keep tabs on the media conversation in your sector, any budding entrepreneur will be poised for PR success… when the time is right.