4 Questions to Ask Before Launching a PR Campaign for Startups

You’ve spent the better part of a year prepping for this launch. You’ve put in place all the legal prerequisites. You’ve secured the right sales partnerships to get this thing off the ground. Your engineers haven’t slept in a week, fueled by chinese take-out and enough red Bull to kill a moose.

The time has come for the big unveil. now you’re ready to open the floodgates. Or are you? Open the floodgates. Or are you?

Before launching a PR and marketing blitz, it’s time for a quick reality check. having worked closely with companies to launch countless new products and services, we’ve seen a few trends emerge, and the most successful companies aren’t afraid to ask themselves a few questions up front. These questions are more than boxes to check off. in many ways, they are determining factors for success.

Here Are Four of the most essential:

What’s Your Story?

Not the boilerplate on your ‘About us’ page. the one you tell clients every year at the holiday party. the one that answers the question, “Why do we exist?”

Cisco co-founder Leonard Bosack was working at stanford when he wanted a better way to communicate with his wife. he found a way to connect a pair of local area networks (LANs) across campus, and the idea for Cisco was born. they came up with the company name – a shortened reference to San Francisco – while driving over the golden gate Bridge, which is symbolized in their logo. His wife. he found a way to connect a pair of local area networks (LANs) across campus, and the idea for Cisco was born. they came up with the company name – a shortened reference to San Francisco – while driving over the golden gate Bridge, which is symbolized in their logo.

You aren’t Cisco, but you already have a go-to narrative for the sales process, and you probably have a story that’s resonated with investors. it’s a story that needs to show (not tell) what you’re all about and just as importantly, what problem you solve.

A good PR firm will help you articulate this story. They’ll be able to distill it down to a 30-second sound bite, or even into a 140-character tweet. they’ll help you get it in front of the right eyeballs. But at the end of the day, it’s your story, and you need to embody it.

How Will You Measure Success?

Now you’ve got a compelling story, and you’re thinking about campaign collateral. how are you going to quantify these outputs? Trusting your gut won’t cut it when it comes time to evaluate the success of a product launch. And if you try to measure retrospectively without clear goals in mind,

You’ll resort to using metrics that are either outdated (like ad value equivalency) or artificially inflated (in the case of impressions) to measure PR. Instead, measure backward from your goals. in terms of Pr, this typically includes some combination of:

»     Growth in sales of one or more products/services
»     Sales or conversions from referral Web traffic
»     Qualified inbound leads through contact form
»     Web traffic growth to target landing page(s)
»     Qualified inbound leads through contact form
»     Web traffic growth to target landing page(s)
»     Growth in prospective client email list (if you don’t already have a capture mechanism, set one up through a service like SendGrid
»     Number of media hits in tier 1 outlets
»     Social media conversation volume and sentiment over time»     Social media conversation volume and sentiment over time

If you aren’t tracking kPis like these, how will you know what’s working, and just as important, what isn’t? The beauty of both PR and marketing is the ability to fine tune to grow results over time. take advantage of it.

What kind of ammunition do you have?

Once you have your story, you need a strong plan outlining how to tell it – at the right time, to the right audience and with the right key messages. What tools do you have at your disposal?

First: your people. The nature of a startup is that many employees wear multiple hats, and you probably have experts in multiple areas – sales, UI/UX, product design, customer service and so on. Your PR team should be tapping into these resources for pitch-worthy story angles and knowledge sharing, and even calling on your employees to help tell your company’s story through interviews with to help tell your company’s story through interviews with the media.

Second: your clients and customers. We’ve all read about the great lengths Zappos customer service reps will go; at this point, their story is practically required reading as a case study on building company culture. But the stories that go viral are the ones told by the end user – the best man who arrived at a wedding without his shoes, only to have Zappos overnight a free pair. Your customers, clients and partners are your best brand advocates, and they can help you tell a story in a way that’s more authentic because of their perspective.

Have you noticed a theme? It’s that PR doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Instead, it’s layered across the entire business, and the best firms function as an extension of the companies they represent.

Pre-launch, marketing and PR need to work together on resources and collateral for the campaign. Things like:

» Promo video on the company or product, and B-roll if you plan to work with TV media
» FAQs
» Product spec sheets
» High-resolution photos and Web/mobile screenshots
» Testimonials from beta users
» Custom landing page(s)
» Whitepaper and blog content

A compelling video isn’t going to extend your runway three months or define the line between success and failure. But the more ammo you can provide your PR team, the better chance of success they have.

Do you have time to devote to PR?

So there you have it – five questions to ask before launching your PR campaign. Any questions? Give us a shout at info@redroosterpr.com. Whether you plan to handle PR in-house or decide to engage an agency, putting a dedicated public relations program in place is an undertaking that requires an investment of your most valuable resource: time.

All too often, entrepreneurs engage with a PR firm expecting to create a plan and then turn the team loose, Entrusting them with the organization’s most powerful asset – the brand – with little to no guidance. This type of engagement requires, at a minimum, several hours a week, typically spent on some combination of the following:

» Weekly meetings with the firm or in-house PR rep
» Conducting interviews with media
» Reviewing press releases, articles and other written materials

This time can be spread out throughout your organization. For example, it’s best to assign a marketing director or in-house PR guru to act as the main point of contact for an outside agency.

If you’re working with a firm, give them direct access to people in your organization. When your firm gets a technical question from a journalist needing a technical response, they shouldn’t be a stranger to your dev team.