Ronjini Joshua is the Founder and CEO of The Silver Telegram, a technology PR agency focused on brand leadership through media relations.
Public relations isn’t rocket science. This is something I’ve been promoting for most of my career. However, there are practices and experiences you pick up along the long path of this career that can’t be replaced with trial and error.
I see this mostly in the startup space, where companies have either done very little PR in the past or no PR and are expecting it to be a sprint effort versus a marathon. Public relations does very little for your brand if it is not executed well because there are three main characteristics of PR that factor into success:
1. Doing your research/homework;
2. Building credibility;
3. Understanding your audience.
Every brand should establish processes that touch these three keys to understand and build a successful brand. Through working with startups for the past decade, I have seen many mistakes that are the result of a lack of experience. Below are the most frequent mistakes I’ve observed, as well as my advice on how to avoid them:
Pushing out ‘news’ that isn’t newsworthy: I’ve seen a number of startups that drink the juice of their brand and assume all developments in their companies are breaking news. But I cannot stress enough how launching a website isn’t news unless your website is a game-changing product.
Startups should get a good grasp of the competitive landscape to determine what key differentiators should impact the industry as a whole. If your announcement doesn’t move your audience to take some kind of action, then it is likely you don’t have a news angle. Here are a few questions you to ask yourself:
• Am I impacting the industry in a way that hasn’t been done before? In other words, am I first, better or the best?
• Does this announcement impact my existing customer base in a significant way?
• Will this announcement change the way people see the brand?
These aren’t the only factors that might be interesting to create an announcement, but if you can legitimately find a new nugget within these three key areas, you are probably safe to make a bolder public statement.
Not preparing early enough: Everyone wants to push something out yesterday. Remember that PR is a process; everyone is not just waiting for your brand to say something. The most common mistake I see is that people will approach us within days of their launch, thinking that will give us enough time to do what really takes about three weeks of work.
Build in a bigger buffer and get insights early from professionals who know what they are doing so you can create a realistic timeline of events. This will also position you much better with the media. Reporters need to have some flexibility with time and deadlines that also work with everything else they are working on. Think PR early on, and allow for at least three to four weeks to prepare.
Failing to establish credibility: How often do you buy products, services or even go to a restaurant without reading customer reviews? In today’s digital world, your answer is probably never. Credibility to establish your brand is important, and it can be done in a number of ways.
For example, telling your story early on will help establish credibility. Whether it’s through your investors, brand ambassadors, members of the media or friends and family, inspire people to say positive things about the brand early and often. If you’re preparing for a launch, ask for expert insights and get them on your bandwagon, too. You’ll need as many “friends” as you can get when you launch or announce something new.
Not pre-pitching to the media: Hand in hand with preparing, the media isn’t always available last minute to post what you’ve sent them. If you’ve done the research required, pulled together something newsworthy and established credibility, you need to “pre-pitch” the media. This means that you reach out to the relevant reporters in the media early so that you can share the information they need and support them in developing a story around your announcement.
If you have the right targets, they should be able to give you feedback on your story angle. If you have some flexibility, they might even help make your story better and stronger.
Not following up: The kiss of death is not following up. A reporter who was once very excited about your story might lose interest if you don’t follow up. The news comes up every day, so part of your job is to keep what you have to say exciting and relevant to the reporter.
My rule of thumb is that every time you follow up, provide some level of added value to make the story or your usefulness greater than the step before. The key with any media outreach is to secure a positive story. Remember that without the proper follow-up, you could lose your chance.
Avoid these five common mistakes and you’re already ahead of the curve. The fact that I geared these toward startups by no means excuses established brands from making these same mistakes. No matter the size of your company, make sure that before you have any big announcements you double-check your strategy against these common missteps to help make your PR strategy a success.
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