Ten tips for startups thinking about PR

Creative studio with a startup team of three debating ideas.

The UK tech scene is booming.

It’s a bumper time for new businesses in general, with a record 900K new startups launched in 2023, but nearly half of these were from the tech industry, according to stats from startups.co.uk.

Breakthrough technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing, blockchain and green hydrogen are all helping power the UK’s future, driven by pioneering new startups.

What’s more exciting is there seems to be a real appetite for seeing technology-focused startups succeed. HSBC’s UK Innovation 2024 forward look report shows there was a noticeable uptick in venture capital investment at the end of 2023. With UK-based VCs raising over $25 billion (£19.6 billion) in the past three years, startups stand to benefit from significant support in 2024 and beyond.

But startups need much more than a great product to truly seize the opportunities on offer. 

Brand awareness is essential for attracting customers, journalists and investors alike. While many thriving tech businesses will know that PR is essential for getting their name out there, many treat it as an afterthought. This leads to poorly executed announcements barely achieving more than a whisper of publicity. 

Startups who struggle to gain traction in the media tend to fail not from a lack of innovation but a lack of strategic groundwork to pave the road for an impactful PR campaign. That’s why we’ve put together this article, to share our tips on how startups can prepare for a winning PR campaign, ensuring they craft meaningful, effective messages to help them get the attention they deserve.

How can my startup start preparing for a PR campaign?

If you want to make your PR shine when the time comes, you’ve got to do a little bit of strategic prep work in advance. Below, we’ve put together our top tips on how to prepare for an impactful PR campaign:

Tip one: Start thinking about PR early

Too many businesses approach PR as an afterthought, which often limits the potential for an effective campaign. PR isn’t about last-minute launches or announcements. It’s strategic communication that involves building a story, honing messaging and developing media relationships. 

You need to know who you are and what you want to say as a brand, and you need to have identified what makes your product or service different from everything else on the market.

You can’t do this on the fly. Timing, preparation and compelling storytelling are (unsurprisingly) going to be crucial for success.

Tip two: Include PR in your budget planning

Startups need to make sure that PR is part of their budget planning from the beginning. If you don’t know what PR costs, how can you realistically plan the kind of campaigns you want to run?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that effective PR has associated costs. Failing to allocate enough during budget planning can seriously limit your PR potential. Doing some research on typical costs in advance will save you headaches down the line, by helping you to allocate your resources wisely and set realistic expectations for your budget.

Tip three: Gather case studies 

Case studies can be collected by inviting and incentivising early adopters to give detailed feedback on their experiences of your product or service. They can help make your value proposition tangible and are an important part of building trust in your brand. More importantly, they’ll demonstrate how your technology works in a relatable way and most journalists love to put a human face to a story!

There’s also a practical consideration: You can’t easily scramble to put one together. If a journalist wants to see a testimonial from someone who’s used your product and you don’t have one ready, you can easily miss an opportunity for coverage—deadlines will not wait for you to be ready.

Tip four: Leverage your data

Investors, customers and journalists tend to want evidence. Data from trials, sales and customer surveys can help to quantify your impact and mark you out as the next big thing.

Using your data wisely can also be a great springboard for offering up your brand’s (evidenced) perspective and establishing your brand as a thought leader. Not only will data and research lend weight to your story, many news articles are inspired by interesting statistics. For example, spotting a change in consumer habits based on your sales data can provide a unique commentary on an emerging trend.

For example, when the motorhome rental platform Goboony saw a surge in bookings following the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, we used this insight to create a story highlighting the booming UK tourism industry and the popular new ‘staycation’ trend. This simple piece of data generated significant coverage and helped to increase demand for Goboony’s services. Find out more by reading our Goboony Case Study.

Tip five: Think about how your messaging will appeal to customers

Can you clearly define who your ideal customer(s) is? Can you explain how your solution is the best fit? Do you know what your brand values are? Are they the same as your customer’s values? And how are you communicating all this?

Again, these are things that need to be considered well in advance of any PR campaign. Once you know who you are and who you want your customers to be, you need to create a concise, targeted messaging plan. 

In a crowded marketplace, you need to be able to immediately convey what problem you solve, for whom, and the benefits of your product or service. It’s also important to avoid generic buzzwords and focus on differentiation. How is your solution truly unique? How is your brand unique? 

Making sure you’ve thought about how your messaging will appeal to customers allows you to form consistent messaging, essential for building a memorable brand.

Tip six: Treat funding announcements as storytelling opportunities

Funding announcements are a rare chance for young companies to stand out and attract media attention—use this! After you’ve made your funding announcement, your story will be of greater interest than ever so you need to plan to capitalise on this increased media attention for building momentum. 

The announcement itself is about so much more than how much you’ve raised; it’s your chance to showcase your vision, highlight your achievements, profile your people and generate buzz around your brand. 

Use the case studies and data insights you’ve gathered from steps three and four to create stories that will help further legitimise your startup, build investor confidence and attract customers.

Tip seven: Run events to introduce yourself to the media

Startups looking to make a splash in their industry should strongly consider hosting events as a way to introduce themselves to the media. A well-planned PR event, such as a product launch, roundtable discussion or targeted demonstration, provides a unique platform for showcasing your company’s innovations and building relationships with key journalists and influencers.  

Events generate buzz and offer opportunities for hands-on experiences that can translate into compelling media coverage, boosting your brand’s visibility and establishing you as a thought leader in your field.

If your budget does not accommodate the cost of hosting your own event, then look to get yourself on the stage at others. Many high-profile events will require a price tag, but there are many startup events especially that fully support putting you under the spotlight during their regular networking events. 

Tip eight: Find an agency that fits your stage and niche

If you’re ready to start speaking to a PR agency, you should try to find out if the agency has experience working with startups, specifically technology startups.

A specialist tech PR agency will understand the challenges of rapid growth and scaling and can offer tried-and-tested strategic advice to help with your growth ambitions. They’ll know how to position a disruptive technology within existing markets and be experienced at helping startups communicate with potential investors and the media.

It’s also very worthwhile looking at their experience within your specific industry (e.g., Fintech, artificial intelligence, etc.). The more they’ve worked in your niche, the better they’ll be able to understand and communicate the value of your product. They’ll also be able to spot opportunities that other traditional PR agencies might miss as they’ll be well-versed in the relevant trends and technology developments.

Tip nine: Measure success by business goals

It’s so important to get your goals right when thinking about PR.

If you find yourself focusing on getting coverage in a specific amount of articles or you’re determined to appear in specific publications or by specific broadcasters, it might be a good time to step back and reassess the reasons behind why you’re seeking PR.

PR needs to be aligned with your business’ KPIs if you want it to directly contribute to your company’s success and you want to feel the impact. 

So, what are your objectives? Boosting sales? Increasing brand recognition among your target audience? Attracting investors? Enhancing your SEO performance?

It’s important to be realistic and focused on your goals. Collaborating with an experienced PR agency will ensure that your efforts align with your overarching business objectives, driving tangible results that will truly move the needle.

Tip ten: Founders & CEOs need to be actively involved

The most successful startup PR campaigns actively involve founders and the CEO. They are the company’s heart and best equipped to passionately and authentically tell the startup’s story. Their personal journey helps create a relatable story that humanises your brand.

More importantly, founders and CEOs ensure that messaging aligns with the company’s core goals. By collaborating closely with them, a PR team can have in-depth conversations that uncover the driving forces behind the business. This deep understanding will be vital in crafting a unique and compelling story that sets you apart from your competition and resonates with your target audience.

Summary

Journalists and media outlets work to deadlines. If you want to capitalise on a funding announcement or a product launch, you can’t afford to scramble at the last minute. Pre-planning allows you to have materials and messaging ready, maximising your chances of securing impactful coverage to help you achieve your wider business goals.

Think you’ll need some PR & media support in the not-too-distant future? Get in touch – we’re a friendly bunch who love nothing better than meeting new startups!

Even if you’re not quite ready to start speaking to the wider world, we can help you to plan costs and give you an industry-specific steer on preparing essentials like case studies and core messaging.

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Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 3858 7107
or email hello@luminouspr.com