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Marketing channels: Public relations

What can public relations (PR) offer for your startup? In a nutshell, PR tactics focus on spurring people to talk about your product or company—they can help you raise awareness and drive virality about your product or service.

PR tactics promote newsworthy editorial or social content, with measures to ensure that the tenor of the public conversation stays positive.

Public relations differs from other marketing methods in that it is earned—not paid—promotion and coverage.

Paid channels  

Earned (“free”) channels

Social (e.g., paid Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) Social (e.g., free Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
Direct sales PR (e.g., free media publicity, promotion from internal employees)
Out of home (e.g., paid billboards, subway ads) Virality (e.g., referrals from existing customers)
Affiliate (paid programs for partners to promote) SEO (e.g., inbound & outbound keyword tactics, backlinks, content)
Trade shows (paid space at events) Community building (e.g., local meet-ups, speaking engagements, thought leadership content)

What are the pros and the cons of PR?


  • Hiring a PR firm provides your startup with specialized talent in marketing communications, specifically in media relations and/or government relations
  • PR teams have the skills to help you best communicate with and through the media, including social media, and reach influential audiences
  • Conducting a publicity stunt yourself does not need to cost very much (but can have varying results)


  • Hiring public relations professionals can be expensive
  • Predicting and measuring your return on investment with PR is less precise than, say, with Google Adwords where you can quickly track and optimize results

Can you reach your customer through PR?

Think about what you already know about your target customer:

  • How and where you are most likely to reach them?
  • What demographic are you trying to reach?
  • What are their interests and challenges?
  • If you’re trying to get press coverage, which media are your customers likely to consume?
  • Would local media reach your market? Do you need a broader media reach?
  • Which <LINK to social channel>social media channels do your customers use (if any)?
PR tactics and strategies for growth
  • Write press releases and blogs
  • Write article/blog pitches for journalists—outlets that publish blogs are often looking for subject matter, but you’ll still need a good hook (e.g., money raised, product launch)
  • Generate media interest (e.g., television programs, news)
  • Build relationships with journalists over social media before you pitch to them
  • Arrange interviews and appearances for company executives
  • Plan and execute outreach events for media and the public
  • Promote your startup or product via social media (and handling any negative online responses)
  • Attend and rank well at pitch competitions—these are often well covered by the media
  • Win research grants or the like—this is covered by some segments of the media
Further resources on PR tactics