How To Hack PR in Today’s Noisy Startup Culture

Rephrasing a prominent Silicon Valley investor Marc Andreessen,  "Public relations game in the 21st century is not Harmony, it's Tinder".

People believe that when businesses hire a PR firm, they are paying for their connections built over time. PR firms want their customers to believe that the more expensive the firm is, the more outreach they’ll have.

Allow me burst your bubble. Even the most expensive agency isn’t going to make your news go viral unless it is worth talking about.

Stop Hunting and Start Building

Journalists in popular media outlets are hunted by thousands of companies just like yours and receive hundreds of cold-emails and press releases every single day. 

The key to attracting their attention is not in invitations to fancy restaurants or free samples of your product. The way to get reporters to write about you and your product is to be relevant to the kind of stories that this journalist writes about and to their outlet's readers.  You need to be tied into current events and be newsworthy in order to generate buzz.

In today’s digital age, no PR guru has the magic power to make your story viral. However, I don’t mean to say that PR firms have nothing worthy to offer. There is a value in PR firm’s knowledge of different media opportunities or personalities.

They can help you identify the best strategies to reach your customers. They have the expertise to develop a unique value proposition and help you build your market penetration strategy. They can come up with different story ideas and write catchy headlines.

Their copywriters can make your pitch outshine your competitors. But of course, your stories have to be compelling and attractive.

As a blogger, I receive multiple messages every day from strangers who send me random website links and expect me to spread the word. Over time, I’ve learned to ignore them without screaming “DON’T TELL ME WHAT YOU’VE GOT. TELL ME WHY I SHOULD CARE!”

You have a much better chance to build relationships by offering journalists your industry insider views and connections, rather than wasting their time with irrelevant spam.

PR is not about constantly pitching your product or service. It is fun! When you stop selling and start sharing genuine human emotions, passions and knowledge, then it will be much easier to gain "the media love".

The Story Is More Important Than Relations

I can assure you that journalists if they have to choose between a "no-name" startup represented by a PR guru who they “have a relationship with” and the latest announcement from a hot unicorn, will choose the latter. So, by creating breaking news and products which solve real problems of large groups of people, you have a better chance to build publicity, rather than by annoying busy people, trying to befriend them.

What can you do about it? Be the news by leveraging the social power of the internet. Digital news occur in real time. More than 90% of journalists check out social media feeds in order to find fresh story ideas. So, your presence on social media crucial both to get on the radars of the reporters and to connect in a real time with your customers.

Anyone can be a publisher with social platforms like Medium, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. Some YouTube bloggers (vloggers) have a larger and more engaged crowd of followers than global corporations who spend millions of dollars on marketing. Presidents of innovative companies are becoming popular bloggers, and Twitter accounts of some of the  venture capitalists have more followers than national media outlets. You should learn from the leaders.

You can define your voice, grow your audience, and spread your ideas without relying on a middleman with a PR agency. Prove that people care about what you have to say, and you will be more successful in talking to traditional media. Then, YOU will become the next big thing.

The “Magic Stick” Is In Your Hands

A lot of people who want to start a company believe that their ideas are worth a lot. But without execution, it's hard to say whether the startup will be successful.

Always test your product with customers and the market. Create measurable goals for your business before hiring any PR firm. Nobody knows more about your product than you do. Be the author of your own story.  Don’t expect a publicist to read your mind.

The “magic stick” is in your hands, and public relations experts can only help you use it more effectively.