Throughout our journey in the industry, we have learned that there are substantial misconceptions about PR. For instance, whenever we are negotiating with potential clients, they often ask us what a PR strategy is, its scope, and whether it is possible to skip a particular stage and start pitching journalists or managing social media right away. In other cases, prospects balk at the idea of investing in PR, saying, “We already have a marketing plan—isn’t that enough?”
As you might expect, the answer is no. In this column, we will discuss what a PR strategy entails, highlight its distinctions from marketing-related blueprints, and underscore the reasons why investing in public relations is a must for startups, especially in today’s world.
What Is a PR Strategy, and Why Is It Different from a Marketing Plan?
A marketing strategy involves delving into a company’s target audience and thoroughly understanding its needs and challenges. It serves as the foundation to promote and sell the firm’s products or services, taking into account factors such as pricing, distribution, and sales channels. This plays a critical role in expanding market share, boosting sales, meeting revenue targets, and building a loyal, solid customer base. This all precedes the execution of external communication initiatives or endeavors to enhance brand awareness and visibility.
On the other hand, a PR/communications plan is an essential component of a startup’s brand strategy, and ensures that its key message is delivered in a timely and effective manner to its target audience. In other words, if done correctly, this helps you reach the right people at the right time. Additionally, the PR document serves as a cornerstone that outlines the principles, rules, and content that a company must comply with in its external interactions with various stakeholders, including customers, partners, investors, and the media.
Three Reasons Why Every Tech Company Needs a PR Strategy
#1: It aligns your communication efforts with your business goals
Let’s say you are planning on raising your next round of funding. To succeed, you need to attract investors’ attention, and get them interested in what you are building. PR helps you accomplish this because it creates a uniform approach backed by the right tools, and leverages the right channels in order to help you get your message across. This is completely tailored to what you’re looking for. If you have a B2C business model and your intention is to bolster your visibility among potential end users in a new target market, the strategy would be completely different.
#2: It protects you from reputational risks
A PR strategy is a sturdy shield that safeguards your image against potential pitfalls by establishing precise guidelines for external communications across the entire team. By creating alignment, everyone is clear on what data can be disclosed, what statements about competitors are permissible, the startup’s positioning, industry trends, and much more. This framework helps ensure thoughtful actions, mitigating the likelihood of off-kilter statements that can damage your brand.
#3: It helps you secure quality coverage in top media outlets
Journalists expect to see clear messages and smooth, seamless storytelling. Without the strategic approach of a well-crafted PR plan, coherently articulating your narrative can become challenging, which weakens your pitches and diminishes your chances of garnering media attention.
Three Essential Blocks of a PR Strategy for Your Tech Startup
As mentioned, developing a diligent, thoughtful PR strategy is an utmost priority for startups, and the task is not easy. You can expect it to take between 10 to 14 days due to the meticulous preparation it requires. Also, note that the strategy will not be a one-time document, but rather a dynamic guide that constantly evolves to adapt to the shifting circumstances.
Based on several years of experience and hundreds of successful cases, we at Mindset Consulting have developed our own communications strategy format. Here are the main elements it encompasses.
#1: Company story & positioning
This section serves as a comprehensive repository for crucial company details that will be communicated to the external environment. This includes the correct variations of the brand name, the website link, and pertinent information, such as names, positions, and bios, about key individuals like founders, investors, and speakers. Additionally, figures such as the team’s size, investment raised—if any—and the number of clients are consolidated here.
Additionally, we formulate a boilerplate, which describes the company in 5-7 sentences and is used for press releases, pitches, and more. For example, for our client WeDoSolar, a green tech startup, we crafted the following boilerplate:
WeDoSolar is a Berlin-based company, and the producer of the first self-installed balcony solar panels in Europe. The panels, which are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and non-bulky, weigh less than 2 kilos, which eases installation for non-tech-savvy users. All additional components have a minimalistic Apple-like design, and they can be integrated with any other types of solar panels.
As you can see, it is clear, simple, and compelling.
There are situations, however, in which a product might be more complicated to describe. When this happens, we include a case description. This provides journalists with a clear explanation of what the company does. When communicating with the media on one of our clients, a private jet booking service Mirai Flights, we used an analogy relating it to Uber, which further emphasized the virtues of the application and its ease of use. We also worked with a platform for beauty professionals, and succeeded by drawing its parallels with Airbnb.
Last, but not least, this section also outlines essential communication guidelines and principles, such as whether it is allowed to criticize competitors or to reveal the company’s revenue.
#2: Market research
To help a company secure extensive media coverage, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of the market, the overall landscape, and the current agenda and trends, as this will guide how you tailor your message.
For example, as you might expect, the industry of private jets has very specific challenges regarding environmental concerns, especially as the ESG agenda becomes more pressing. There is, also, a growing sense of animosity towards the luxury segment. Despite this, we were able to secure several top mentions about Mirai Flights, including a featured article in TechCrunch. How did we achieve this? By understanding the landscape and strategically accentuating the company’s strengths, as well as by preparing answers in advance to potential journalists’ objections.
Furthermore, this section addresses key figures and industry trends, aligning market challenges with the company’s solutions. We also analyze other industry players, particularly those perceived as closest competitors, and scrutinize their advantages and disadvantages as well as their strengths and weaknesses. We dissect the lessons from those brands’ communications strategies, and study the tools that they use to promote their product or service.
To see where the company stands, we make a comprehensive PR-SWOT analysis of the brand. This provides us with visibility to accurately compare the company’s communication opportunities and the threats that the external environment poses. The resulting insights become the foundation for our conclusions and recommendations.
#3: Actionable PR plan
This section contains a detailed, step-by-step plan to build the company’s communications strategy. Usually, it includes the following elements.
- PR goals: These answer the question, “Why do you need PR?” The most common ones are raising brand awareness, building the founders’ personal brand, boosting their Google visibility, and increasing trust and loyalty among stakeholders.
- Target audience: Who are you communicating with? This is defined based on whether you have a B2C or B2B business model, or whether your goal is to reach investors or other strategic partners. The selection of target media outlets depends on this process.
- Key messages: These highlight the brand’s distinctive aspects and the uniqueness of its products, which is what you want your audience to hear. We normally formulate up to five main messages, which will be then broadcast to the company’s community.
- Promotion opportunities: How are we going to achieve your goals? Potential mechanisms include news distribution, exclusive interviews, expert columns, podcasts, inclusion in relevant listings, reviews, launching a newsletter, or providing products for testing.
- Angles and newshooks: What will you talk about with your audience? You can share about a fresh round of funding, opening a new office, or launching a groundbreaking product. However, keep in mind that this needs to be interesting not only for your team, but for the external environment in which you operate. Make sure you align it with the current agenda and that it is perceived as a “win” against what other players in your sphere are doing.
- Tone of voice: This is how your brand will “sound” to your intended audience. Choose whether the way you will communicate will be emotional, frank, friendly, or, conversely, formal and solemn.
- Media List: Identify the media outlets that you will work with. Categorize this list into news agencies, business, tech, lifestyle, and glossy media, TV and radio.
- Expertise of speakers and possible topics: Whether it is in a podcast or through an op-ed in tier-1 media, who will speak on behalf of the company, and what will they talk about?
Through this article, we have clarified any doubts surrounding what a PR strategy helps you accomplish, and why it cannot be replaced by a marketing plan. In this regard, a well-crafted plan can be a valuable ally to align your communication efforts with your business goals, support you in securing coverage on top media outlets in your field, and protect you from reputational risks. If, by now, you’ve decided to start working on a PR strategy, make sure it covers the elements we have explained above, such as an accurate company description and compelling messaging, diligent market research, and an actionable plan that can guide you towards your goals.