Public Relations. Media Coverage. Call it what you’d like It all sounds so glamorous, right?  Even as I was sitting down to write this blog with my blank Word document ready to go, I was dreaming up visions of paparazzi rushing to my car to greet me and bombarding me with questions of:  Who are you wearing?  Is it true you and Chris Hemsworth are dating? And then, as quickly as my day dream began I was summoned back to reality and remembered that I was writing about B2B PR.  Oh well a girl can dream.

Now, back to business.  Before we get into some essential tips and reminders for handling public relations for your organization, it’s important that we have a quick review of what PR really is and why it is so important for startups and SMBs in particular.

What is PR?

To be honest, it means a lot of different things depending on who you speak to or which blog you are reading.  Essentially it’s a method for building a credible brand image for your company.  Through PR, you have a means to establish bi-directional relationships with all of your market participants – that means future and current customers, investors, partners, media outlets and more.  Because of the significant influence that media coverage can have on your market it is a highly powerful strategy.  And with this power comes great responsibility.

With the proliferation of social media, traditional PR and marketing strategies have shifted and have become more integrated than ever before.  Today, PR not only encompasses traditional media channels such as magazines, newspapers, and television but it also includes blog sites, review sites, social networks and more.  Today the media playing field has expanded and has become inextricably connected.  Opinions, coverage, reviews can virally extend from one platform to the next.  This is both a curse and blessing at the same time. Therefore, PR must be treated with purpose and control.

It is also more attributable than ever before.  Which leads us to our next topic.

Why do startups and SMBs need PR?

Since PR has a viral, trickle-up-down-and-over effect, startups and SMBs can really leverage this strategy to achieve widespread awareness without a ton of investment.  When a company achieves good coverage, the “news-net” effect we described just above lets the coverage work for itself.  It will work for itself.

Sure, it may seem like there are more important things to do right now like trying to scale talent, raise additional capital, selling, etc. but it is important to recognize that while PR is not more important than those things, it is equally important.

In order to deliver on all of your other priorities above, you need to focus on PR. The more broadly and quickly you can get a positive brand image out there, the more credible you will appear to prospective clients, investors, and employees. And one of the perks?  It’s highly attributable.  Due to the online and trackable nature of today’s media platforms, quantifying your efforts and attributing them to business results is quite possible.  But that will have to be another blog.

An additional benefit of being engaged with the media is that you are able to become more attuned to what the market wants.  If the media is covering the topics and you are getting noticed, then your business and solution is aligned with market needs.  If you want to talk about topics that just aren’t being covered and are being passed up by the media that could be a signal for you as well.

So, where do you start?

When starting on your PR journey there are three foundational elements to live by:  prepare, target, and start small.

  • Prepare
    • What’s news to us internally may not necessarily be news to media-land. Pay attention to which topics are trending online and other news channels and then figure out what you can meaningfully contribute to those conversations.
    • Once you identify the topics you want to have a voice in, prepare key messages and talking points and stick to them. You shouldn’t follow a script but remember, repetition builds reputation so stay on message!
  • Target
    • While the saying goes all press is good press, that doesn’t mean that you should aim for all press. You are a small company and need to be smart with your effort and resources Do your homework and figure out which are the most relevant channels for your topics and POV (point of view).
  • Start Small
    • While we all want the big FT or CNN coup it is wise to start small. Tap into local media or industry and trade media.  Cut your teeth on some of the more focused outlets and then you’ll be ready to take on the rest.  Remember, just because it’s not Fox Business it doesn’t mean that you won’t benefit from the same viral nature of the coverage.

Also, once you do start landing coverage don’t forget about your Investors.  Before you reveal anything about them in an interview or a press release or any public channel, make sure you have their blessing.  While your investors undoubtedly want you to get as much exposure as possible, they are equally passionate about keeping their confidential information confidential and their own messaging controlled.

In the end, it’s all about investing in the activities that are going to help your business succeed.  Think about prioritizing PR in your strategy, it may very well open the doors to growth.