Focus & Outcome: Do you have a clear objective in mind? What would be the ideal outcome of this initiative? Can you measure it?
Having a clear idea of what you want to accomplish will help you position the material and call-to-action, target your distribution channels and gauge success. Try to keep it to one main goal and set reasonable expectations!
Note: Whatever your goal, ensure you have a clear CTA from the start. After reading this article or press release, what do I want people to do?
Are you ready to invest time and resources into this channel?
Although PR can yield big results, it takes significant time and doesn’t come with guarantees. Writing a press release alone is unlikely to get traction; you will need to dedicate a couple of hours a week to pitch journalists or hire a PR freelancer to pitch the story on your behalf. Ask other companies (*not competitors) in your sector if they have had good experiences with a freelance PR firm (it’s usually the best way to ensure they understand the industry and have relevant media contacts).
Do you have a delivery mechanism or plan? Do you know the best way to reach your audience? Where are they getting their information? In what format do they consume content and news?
As a startup, you want to be clear and targeted on where you want coverage. Depending on your goal and resources, getting published in an industry/association newsletter might yield better results than an article in the Globe and Mail.
Do you have a compelling story?
The story is likely NOT your company. Your startup might play an important role IN a story, but constantly pitching a business profile is unlikely to yield results. Mindlessly pushing sales and promotional materials won’t attract customers. Similarly, good PR requires understanding and building genuine relationships with outlets and journalists. You want to be able to provide value and a relevant story that will appeal to their audience.
Is this a good time? Are you ready?
Timing is everything when it comes to news, so make sure the pitch makes sense. If your company is focused on e-commerce, for example, the lead up to holiday shopping might garner better traction than the summer months.
Are you ready? If your product isn’t ready or your website is not able to track and convert leads, then you might want to hold back on a major PR push. Despite popular belief, getting as much press attention as possible right out of the gate is rarely a good idea. Why? Attention is fleeting and it’s unlikely the outlet will cover you again in the near future. If your objective is leads, make sure you are able to leverage the traffic and achieve your goals. Have analytics in place and create a landing page with contact forms. If your product isn’t ready, make a wait list!
Side note: Media outlets require different lead times (e.g., magazines require one to three months to plan their editorial calendar, online publications are weekly).
Is PR the right channel for your goal? Is there a reason you don’t want to write the story yourself?
Given the limited writers, publications and their internal resources, it might make sense to invest in developing content instead of pitching the idea. Why?
Lastly, nothing is stopping you from sending the content to outlets to potentially share. In fact, it often helps to build relationships and establishes authority in the space. It is also a lot easier and faster for journalists to share content than to produce it!
Tip: Finding quality freelance copywriters and subject matter experts can be difficult in niche sectors. A great way to find these ‘unicorns’ is to look at blogs, websites and other sources of information in your industry. Find the authors and connect with them on LinkedIn to see if they freelance.
Do you need an agency? Do you have the relevant contact information to pitch the story to your targeted outlets?
Once you have crafted the story and written the release, you need to be able to send it out. If you are writing a generic pitch to multiple outlets (this is not the recommended approach but gets the word out quickly), make sure you BCC the contacts and don’t add too many to the email, as you’ll be flagged as spam.
A more targeted approach is much more effective. You can often find the emails for media outlets or journalists through their websites.
When pitching, keep in mind: