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The Very First PR Step a Startup Needs to Take

Startups often rush to be first to market, providing the press a half-baked story. Don't do that. Instead, make sure everything is in place before you approach the media.
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Q: What would be the first step you should take regarding PR when you have a new startup. How do you get the first word out about your business out there?
-Sarah Rack

A: This is a great question and one that I get asked frequently. PR is an aspect of the business that you should be thinking about as you are simultaneously developing your company and launching it. It's cohesive with other marketing and public facing aspects of your business and should be addressed in conjunction when thinking about things like: What will my website convey? Who are my customers? Who am I competing against?

The first step is making sure that you have clear communication about your company. It should resonate for your end users, and it should be differentiated from your competitors.


At Moxie, we run a comprehensive exercise to identify who is in your sandbox and develop corporate messaging that's both authentic to your brand and clearly spells out your defensible differentiators. It's important to understand the opportunities between your competitors' conveyed and perceived differentiators and to make sure that what you are doing is newsworthy and articulated appropriately.

Also, it's important to note to keep in mind that it's more critical to have the best product and brand than the first product or brand. You don't want hiccups in your startup identified by press and the public before you've had a chance to properly address it. You also need to make sure that before you introduce yourself to the public you've got the most robust well-oiled machine. It's hard to win over reporters and customers if their first experience with your brand is anything less than stellar. We are too busy to easily give things a second shot, and media doesn't forget mistakes easily, so you should expect future press coverage to reference past missteps.

Now let's assume your company is 100 percent ready for prime-time consumption, the next step is to understand who covers your industry. Take the time to read those blogs and trade publications and understand why you are relevant to the press.

Dozens of new startups launch each day. Everyone thinks they have a story to tell. Reporters are bombarded with pitches every day. At the same time, dozens of startups fail each day, and media must be skeptical about who they cover. No one wants to write about companies that are here today and gone tomorrow. They want to write about disruptors that have market longevity.

Related: How to Build Your Own Brand Buzz

Lastly, it's critical that you have a realistic view of PR. If you think it's your meal ticket to getting millions of customers at launch, then I strongly suggest you reevaluate where PR sits within your marketing plan. It's not the media’s job to get you customers -- it's their job to tell a compelling newsworthy story.

So here are some quick tips on how to get the first word out about your business:

Craft a newsworthy brand narrative. This is different from your marketing materials and should specifically be designed to tell a story about what you are doing and how it fits into the news landscape.

Explain your unique selling proposition. You should be able to describe how you are different from your competitors and how your communication strategy is distinct, as you don't want to be known as another "fad" or "me too" company.

Understand your audience. I don't mean your customers, I mean the press you want to reach.  Determine what is different about each outlet. If you want them to spend the time talking to you (and hopefully writing about you), you need to take the time to get to know them, what they write about and their perspective on your industry.

Focus on being genuine and relevant.  Make sure you are telling an authentic story and brand mission and determine what about it is newsworthy.

Don't annoy media. They get hounded every day by startups, PR agencies, founders and more. Their job isn't to write about you. Their job is to get scoops, break news and thoughtfully evaluate companies and products that are useful to their readers or viewers. So make sure you are delivering value to them, respecting their work and understand they have their own agenda of how to break news.  

Related: Tips for Pitching the Media