“All startups have one thing in common: Great ideas. Small budgets.”

Those where some of the first words of advice spoken by Kelly Hendricks, the CEO of BLASTMedia, at Smartups last month. Startups are often spending every dollar they have on the product; so with their small budgets how far can a bright entrepreneur stretch their budget to get their great ideas and products in front of paying customers? That’s exactly what Kelly answered when he talked about PR as one of the greatest marketing tools for budget conscious entrepreneurs.

PR Is The Greatest Low Cost Marketing Tool For Entrepreneurs

getting PR for startups

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

The PR that we are talking about is the press coverage that companies get by pitching their message as a part of a solution to a journalist’s story. Of course you can pay a PR company, but that eats into the definition of a tool for the budget conscious. One of the great aspects of PR for the cash strapped is that you can do it for free. Kelly freely admitted as an entrepreneur you have no need to hire a PR company such as BLASTMedia. You can get a lot of the coverage you want and need on your own with a little bit of knowledge and a good story.

If You Want Press, Nurture A Relationship With Journalists

Start by following editors on Twitter who write about your space. By understanding their likes and dislikes, you have a head start on conversation topics.  Building a relationship can begin with a simple email along the lines of “Read your article. Very helpful. Thank you.” Hint: the editor’s email is usually at the bottom of his article.

Not only do you want to keep tabs on the editors, but also on your customers’ interests. By reading the articles they retweet, you have a better feel for topics/angles for your story. Kelly also recommended creating a wish list of target journalists you’d like to have cover your company. Doing your homework before you pitch to the media gives you the advantage when talking to an editor.

Remember, just because you might be a tech startup, doesn’t mean your list of journalists should include the writers of TechCrunch, TheVerge, and other tech blogs. Seek out the journalists who write to your customer base. You might have the greatest bit of technology in the world to help auto dealers, but no auto dealers read tech blogs. Auto dealers read car blogs and other trade publications. There are always new startups that seem to pop up out of nowhere because they were ignored by the tech press (such as Pinterest). The reason Pinterest came out of nowhere is because they knew their core audience didn’t read tech blogs; they read mommy blogs, fashion blogs, and other types of blogs that the tech press had never heard of. Bottom line, target journalists who target your customers.

Put Your Ego Behind You. Be A Storyteller

Digg famously told the story of hiring a developer on Elance for a small amount of money to create their hugely successful product. At the end of the day, every journalist wants a compelling story like this that will make news. So, be sure you know what story to tell. Keep in mind that journalists are on the receiving end of countless pitches from entrepreneurs. And, although it might feel like your product is going to change the world, ditch the ego and focus on giving them a good story. And a good story isn’t: “you covered my competitor so you should cover me.”

If you are having trouble framing your story, paying money to a PR agency might be the better alternative. But, if you can explain your story effectively, you can save money and get press that leads to customers.

Now, it’s your turn to create a million dollar PR campaign on a startup budget.

Bonus PR Pitching Tips:

  • You can start sending the editor information 30 days before your announcement if you have a relationship with them. If you don’t know them, then, it’s never too early to start that relationship.
  • Pick up the phone. Since 90% of pitches are through email, a call makes you stand out – with extra points for personable flair. Remember to be aware of time zones though.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to pitch your story. And don’t forget, Fridays can be ripe for phone calls. You may even strike gold on a Sunday night (proceed with caution).
  • Use HelpAReporter.com to find journalists who might be writing stories about your industry.