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Brand is such a nebulous term, especially when talking about companies of different sizes, industries, and market share. To paraphrase David Oglivy, the godfather of advertising, brand is essentially the intangible assets of a product and company.

Put another way, what is it that attracts (or repels) people to buying your product? What is the perceived value? And for what do you and your product stand?

When talking about brand from a PR perspective, we’re talking about building credibility and establishing brand identity via third-party validation.

In this case, that third party is the media. The faster you can get them on your side, the faster your brand can get to the top of customers’ minds.

How PR Meets the Changing Brand Needs of Startups and Scale-ups

If you’re a startup, you may have to tangle with an 800-pound gorilla already in your space. Or you might have the opposite challenge of defining a new market or product category with no existing customers. Either way, you’re building from the ground up—an arduous task for any company.

RELATED: The Right PR for Startups: Agency or In-house?

Once you hit scale-up status, your PR and branding strategies may start looking dramatically different. You’ve established traction by validating your product in the market. Your growing customer base demonstrates that brand awareness is building.

But no matter where you currently fall, building a brand is crucial, and PR amplifies your efforts. Let’s take a deeper look at how this is done differently for startups and scale-ups.

How Startups Should Use PR to Build a Brand

It all starts with “the sniff test,” a lovely term we use at BLASTmedia to describe what people see when they search your brand online. What happens when a prospective customer or VC googles your name? Are your owned properties (website and social media profiles) the only items that show up?

If so, you’re in trouble. Those results do not build trust or credibility. They make you look like the person at the party who only talks about themselves.

That’s a big reason startup PR focuses on getting your name out through trusted media outlets. Garnering articles written about you by prominent, respected outlets is a surefire way to begin establishing brand credibility.

A prospect may not trust your blog, but they will likely take the word of a trusted media outlet as a stamp of approval.

The TechCrunch Effect: Beware Getting PR Tunnel Vision

When we talk with our clients about which media they’d to appear in, many point to the TechCrunch’s of the world. While outlets like that have high visibility, that isn’t always your best bet to drive business value from PR.

Instead, finding out what media influences your potential buyers is crucial to achieving PR that makes a bottom-line impact on your business. Yes, coverage in TechCrunch may give your ego a boost.

But would it really move the needle for your business like, say, a highly curated piece of thought leadership content from a vertical publication that speaks directly to your buyer would?

The goal for most startups should be twofold. First, make a splash with announcement-type coverage (announcing a funding round, new product, or customer wins). Second, begin establishing yourself as an expert source to the media.

The best way to do that is through thought leadership marketing pieces that:

  • Answer common buyer questions.
  • Address customer pain points.
  • Establish the market need for your product or service.

How PR and Brand-Building Change for Scale-ups

Scale-up PR is about two things:

  • Sustaining the brand authority and relevancy that you’ve worked so hard to build.
  • Building upon the brand equity you’ve established through your thought leadership.

This two-headed strategy of sustaining and building the brand is how you become omnipresent when articles are written about your space.

After all, as a scale-up company, you’ve likely seen early success in the national, local, and trade media. You need to maintain that relevancy. You also need to level-up your PR game beyond an announcement-based strategy.

But perhaps the biggest reason to evolve PR strategy going from startup to scale-up is you’ve now likely identified multiple buyer personas and defined their customer journeys. That means you need to develop specific messaging and stories that matter to each buyer along every phase of that journey.

Why SaaS Companies in Particular Need to Leverage PR

As David Skok of Matrix Partners argues in his indispensable SaaS Metrics 2.0:

“SaaS is usually a ‘winner-takes-all’ game, and it is therefore important to grab market share as fast as possible to make sure you are the winner in your space. Provided you can tell a story that shows that eventually, that growth will lead to profitability, Wall Street, acquiring companies, and venture investors all reward higher growth with higher valuations. There’s also a premium for the market leader in a particular space.”

When thinking about SaaS as a “winner-takes-all” game from a PR perspective, I often advise scaling brands to remember the strategy of telling their story:

  • To the right segment.
  • At the right time.
  • In a way that keeps your brand in the media consistently.

The more you know your buyer personas and customer journeys, the easier you can execute that strategy. It’s why we talk about how PR impacts the customer journey a lot at BLASTmedia, and how it creates impact along each phase.

Parting Thoughts: Winning With PR Looks Different for Every Company

No company can have a 100 percent share of the market or media, even Amazon or Facebook. But you don’t need to capture 100 percent of the media to win anyhow.

Instead, focus on establishing a regular cadence of media share of voice, along with winning leaderhips awards and securing speaking opportunities. That’ll deliver a big boost to your credibility, not to mention give you more at-bats than those brands who are ghosts online.


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These articles have been curated by our friends at BLASTmedia, a national PR agency focusing on media relations for B2B technology companies.