Win the Startup PR Game

Chessboard” via Photopin (license)

The Best Strategies for Attracting Media Attention for Your Early-Stage Startup

At Hyde Park Angels, we spend a lot of time working with our portfolio companies on developing and executing communications strategies that help them achieve their unique goals, whether they are attracting new partners, generating leads, or launching a new product in the market. With over forty portfolio companies, we have worked on a variety of communications projects, but by far have spent the most time building and managing highly successful PR campaigns.

Make no mistake — a truly successful PR campaign takes time, effort, and strategic thought. However, in the early stages, entrepreneurs don’t always have the budget for PR agencies, and often think they lack the skills they need to generate their own media attention. But there are a few key ways you can build your own DIY PR campaign and achieve tremendous results. Here are four strategies for winning the PR game.

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Focus on Creating Mutual Value 
The secret to PR is not crafting the perfect press release or assembling a list of 20,000 reporters and cold calling each one; it’s building and sustaining healthy, mutually beneficial relationships. Just like you, reporters are trying to do a job, and that job is content. 
 However, that doesn’t mean that any content will meet their needs. This is the biggest mistake we see entrepreneurs make when approaching their PR campaigns. You have to be able to put yourself in a reporter’s shoes and answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Does this match up with the reporter’s beat?
  • Is this actually news?
  • Is this relevant to the publication?

Reporters and publications are so diverse and varied, the answer to each of those questions will be different on a case by case basis. To create value, you need to find a match with the individual reporters who cover the kind of story you are trying to promote.

On the flip side, not every reporter is the right match for you. Treat media coverage like sales: not every lead is created equal. Don’t pour energy into developing relationships or pitching to publications that won’t generate value for you. Fast Company might be flashier and more public than a trade show journal, but if you’re trying to sell to the audience at that trade show, it’s worth putting more time and effort into building relationships and stories there.

Target the Right Market
This is a no-brainer and a true subset of the first point. There is nothing wrong with downloading a list of 4,000 business reporters in a relevant geographic area, so long as you cull that list down to your ideal targets. Contacting every single one is a waste of your time and resources, and it’ll cut into your ability to craft individually relevant and interesting pitches. 
 Think of reporters and media outlets like customers — you have to segment down to the ones who are most likely to convert and give them your careful attention. It’ll help you get to that mutual benefit sooner, and increase your chances of getting consistent media coverage beyond just one story.

Tailor Your Pitch to Your Audience
One of our most commonly used lines in-house is that the press release isn’t going to win you any coverage. It’s always about the pitch. We don’t ascribe to the belief that press releases are of no value, but they often don’t play a big role until after a reporter has decided to do the story in the first place. Then, the press release may serve as a helpful fact sheet.

However, the pitch — whether it be delivered via email or in person — should relate directly to the individual reporter you’re contacting. That means knowing your audience like the back of your hand.

  • What does the publication typically publish?
  • Are there recent stories that yours relates to or could be paired with?
  • What does the reporter like to write about?

A lot of this information you can glean just by doing your homework and some light googling, but the best pitches often come directly from knowing the reporters. In the beginning, you’ll probably be tapping your network for connections or emailing reporters blind, but over time, you will have the opportunity to meet them at events, follow-up with them for coffee after they have already covered you in some capacity, and try to build value for them by working through your rolodex of experts to help find them useful sources.

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About Hyde Park Angels
Hyde Park Angels is transforming early-stage investing by taking a people first approach. The organization is the largest and most active angel group in the Midwest. With a membership of over 100 successful entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists, the group provides critical strategic expertise to entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial community. Nearly 40% of our members have founded a company, 88% are CEO’s, top executives or corporate board members, and 100% invest in startups. By leveraging the members’ deep and broad knowledge of multiple industries and financial capital, Hyde Park Angels has driven multiple exits and invested millions of dollars in over 40 portfolio companies that have created over hundreds of jobs in the Midwest since 2006.

About the Author
Alida Miranda-Wolff
Alida Miranda-Wolff heads up communications and strategy at Hyde Park Angels, crafting and disseminating the organization’s brand in all forms across all channels. In addition to single-handedly building HPA’s integrated communications plan and executing its core elements, Alida manages membership, partnerships, portfolio company support, and all community engagement. 
Prior to joining Hyde Park Angels, Alida served in a variety of journalism, marketing, communications, and management roles, specializing in creating spreadable multimedia content for tech-enabled businesses at all stages. Alida has run several Kickstarter campaigns, including one of the most successful in Chicago history, and still mentors companies running their own campaigns. 
Alida graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in 2014 with multiple honors and awards. She remains active in the university of alumni network, serving on five advisory boards and committees. Alida is also a published author and poet, with two poetry chapbooks currently in print, Domestic Scenes and Tree Fingers.