How to Generate your own PR as a Start-up or Freelancer?
Going freelance or starting a business? Exciting yet challenging! How do you find new customers with a limited marketing budget? You must build a presence in the specific sector you’re targeting. One of the most (cost) effective ways to do so is by working on the image you, as a brand, project into the world. That’s what PR or Public Relations is all about — how others perceive you or the product you’re offering. And conviction. What your brand says about you when you’re not there.
Media is a huge source of influence in people’s daily lives. It is, after all, referred to as the ‘fourth branch of power’ in politics because of its strength in shaping people’s opinions.
Understand Your Audience
Market research is essential for any new venture. Where does your brand and offering fit within the existing landscape? You’d want to make it easy for people to differentiate your product. Create a simple, but powerful brand message that can easily translate your key selling points — for both potential customers and the press.
Consider who your prospective audience is. Where do they find out about new concepts, services or brands? If, as an example, your product is aimed at teenage girls, having it featured in Forbes will have a much lower impact on your target audience, than perhaps an article in Seventeen Magazine.
Target Sector Specific Journalists and Build a Connection
You now have a grasp of whom your target audience is, and which outlets they would pursue to find new information. Next, is to find the journalists working for publications relevant to your product information. Ones who have already written stories on similar products, services or themes. Pitching a story on the launch of a food tech app to a journalist that writes about deep tech is a no-no. They won’t be interested to cover it and you want to be conscious of their time. And it very likely won’t be forwarded on.
Make a list of your target reporters and reach out to them in advance (remember, planning is key!). A short email explaining that you came across an article of theirs that is of value to you (or your product!), will go a long way. They may not reply, but they will see it. When the time comes to send out your own press release, you may reply to the original email thread, which also helps the journalist see that you’re not mass-emailing.
Aim to build connections with journalists- if you know there’s an event they may find of interest, invite them or let them know. If you see a story they may like to cover, give them the tip. Speaking from a reporter’s perspective, always remember to lead with value and you’ll be remembered.
Write a Strategic Press Release
Your website is finally up! Your service or product is set to launch. Great! Time for a press release! It may be tempting to list all the cool features your product has, but is this relevant to readers?
Usually a service or a product launch should be tied within the ‘bigger picture’ to be newsworthy. Is there a recent trend you’ve noticed in your field? Has there been a big event you can relate your story to? Timing is everything.
My press release on Spacemize’s launch was covered by over 10 media outlets including Euronews and The Week. The current climate of the hospitality industry pre- Brexit certainly helped. Generally, your press release will either be about your brand’s:
a) Launch (new product offer or services)
b) Event (new hires, office expansion, collaborations)
c) New sources (data or research)
Grab the reporter’s attention by writing a compelling, and quick-to-read title (5-6 words simple to catch). Your opening sentence should address the 4 W’s- Who, When, Where and Why. Make it easier for a journalist to re-post/publish your press release by including it in the email body, rather than in a separate attachment. And be sure to check for grammar/spelling mistakes!
And most importantly bear in mind the following question: ‘How will the reader benefit from hearing this story’?
Build Partnerships and Connect with The Community
Media may be the ‘fourth stream of power’ in politics but building organic and in-person brand awareness is just as important. As a freelancer or a start-up founder, you will be spending a lot of time working on your own. Working solely from home is both isolating and counterproductive, especially when the lines between public/private life begin to blur.
Avoid burning out by getting out there and connecting to the local community through networking events, business seminars or coworking.
Knowing this, I’ve started organising community events at Spacemize. I’ve discovered that our members enjoy learning new topics of interest when launching a business and building lasting connections with other like-minded individuals even more! It’s a natural way to get your brand ‘out there’ in the start-up community– collaboration over competition, which will also lead to organic referrals.
Previously the UK Correspondent for Bulgaria's largest Media Group BTV, Tzvete Doncheva is now heading the business development at Spacemize, a start-up which offers 'luxury hotel coworking' in London. She's also on the advisory board at The Entrepreneurs Network, UK's leading think tank for entrepreneurs- helping companies reach their target audience through PR and targeted community events.