Cindi GoodsellCindi Goodsell

Few things can put a tech startup on the map more effectively than credible earned media resulting from a concerted public relations program.

In today’s competitive business environment, startups can fail because not enough investors and customers know about them and what they bring to the marketplace. Finding the right communications strategy can help a startup build press-worthy news that increases visibility among many key audiences, distinguishes its brand in the marketplace, attracts investors and spurs subsequent growth.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine
This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '19 Technology PR Magazine.

While a story in the right media outlet can certainly be a great benefit, it’s not what makes a brand. Reputation takes time and investment—and comes with repetition—which is why the right strategy is key.

To maximize ROI on their communications investment, startups need a strategy that encompasses media relations, thought leadership, social and digital media, strategic messaging and content marketing. It’s hard work and—as many startups have learned—it’s not a simple, do-it-yourself effort.

With that in mind, here are a few things technology startups should consider to ensure they add value:

Set realistic expectations

Expecting immediate returns on investment can be an occupational hazard. Sometimes it takes many tries to capture a reporter’s attention, as well as weeks or months for an article to be published. Earned media requires patience from firms who may be used to the instant gratification paid advertising brings.

Communicators need time to put a strategy in place to market the company’s story and to find success with both long- and short-lead targets. PR teams have to be crystal clear with C-level executives regarding the overall message and course of action.

Cast a wide net

Sure, tech startups are focused on the New York Times, TechCrunch and other A-list media outlets. But pitching the broadest reach publications without approaching those that speak directly to the company’s buying audience isn’t strategic thinking.

A robust program includes not just business media outlets focusing on the big picture of the technology, but also technology verticals that focus on more granular coverage of solutions, niche web sites concentrating on emerging technologies and markets, and even influential bloggers who are able to introduce the brand to a much wider audience.

Demonstrate real-world impact

Earlier-stage companies without brand-name investors or meaningful visibility are easily overlooked. To increase the odds of success, it’s crucial they rely on communications expertise to help them develop messaging that explains their real-world applications and highlights how the company’s products and services are differentiated. The company can also help prove claims by providing interesting statistics and working with customers to make them advocates.

Nurture affinity groups

Startups can rely on their communications partners to actively engage trade and meet-up groups that can help put them on the map and spread the word. There are plenty of opportunities for startups to develop new business partnerships, and cultivating relationships is an effective way to expand their footprint and engage with like-minded people.

PR brings a 360-degree perspective to startups and helps them communicate their way to success. It usually won’t begin with a feature in the Wall Street Journal. By exploring all media channels and using them appropriately, startups can steadily build toward major media coverage.

This takes alignment, trust, inclusion, partnership, investment and patience on both sides of the client-agency relationship.

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Cindi Goodsell is a Director at Harden Communications Partners, a Stanton Agency, where she’s focused on technology and healthcare clients.