Why PR is YOUR Best Fundraising Tool
For many people, Public Relations (PR) teams are these mysterious, wondrous creatures that seem to evade even the best and brightest. You’ve heard of them mentioned in dark corners of conferences and how it’s been the success and bane of many a startup- the right PR team can change your life.
If you can afford a PR team, great, if not, don’t worry because anyone can write and publish a press release. Many people talk trash about PR and say it isn’t needed. They say PR’s a waste of time and energy; if you’re good, you just don’t need it. But the basic questions still remain: what is PR, how do you know you need it, and how do you find a great team. Let’s dive into the details below.
What is PR?
PR is any activity related to keeping a brand or person top of mind within a particular industry and among business and consumer targets in a positive way.
Companies and people use PR, in conjunction with other marketing and advertising activities, to build and monitor their public image.
Historically, PR has been difficult to measure a ROI for because, unlike direct marketing, it relies on a third party or “authoritative” endorsement to drive awareness. Furthermore, without a direct call to action, it’s often difficult to track the outcomes of a PR campaign that lead to a conversion.
PR encompasses a wide range of activities. Examples include creating a specific strategy to position a brand in the marketplace, leveraging relationships with the media to tell a brand’s story, facilitating opportunities for key spokespeople to participate on panels and attend various industry-related events, developing and executing social media plans, and nominating clients for awards.
Unlike advertising (often called bought media) or company “online real estate” such as websites and social media channels (often called owned media), PR (which is basically ‘earned media’) requires a third party (e.g. a newspaper, blog, or magazine) to endorse or talk about a brand.
Why do startups need PR?
- Nothing screams “credibility” like having others talk about your brand or product in a positive way. Unlike sales, where customers often feel pressured to buy, PR is a softer method of influencing potential customers toward making a buying decision.
- When PR is executed correctly, you gain an extraordinary opportunity to build a positive reputation for your brand or product while simultaneously reaching your target audience (end-users) with your message.
- PR activities are meant to educate the marketplace about why they should care about you, visit your website, or ultimately, purchase your product.
- Without a public-facing message or image, your brand or product has little to no opportunity of penetrating into the marketplace.
- Last but not least, PR is not a solution for a poorly performing product. PR must be used in conjunction with KPI’s or performance goals as well as other marketing tactics in order to be truly successful.
In sum, PR can be an important part of an overall company strategy by providing potential channels to drive traffic, acquire users, and ultimately increase your brand equity and awareness in the marketplace.
The purpose of a press release is to get attention, make news, and generate publicity. It’s cost-effective marketing (free) and can be used to create brand awareness.
The Basics of Crafting a Press Release:
- Make it newsworthy; it’s not an ad, it’s a news article
- Use an attention-grabbing headline
- Be time sensitive – no one wants old news
- Stick to one topic
- Write it in a professional tone, or even better, write it like you’re a reporter
- Proofread it and then have someone else proofread it
Key Components of a Press Release:
- Letterhead (identify that it is from your organization)
- “For Immediate Release” under the date
- Headline: Limit it to 15 words
- Subtitle (optional): Keep it short
- Lead paragraph: Your organization’s location (city, state) in bold type and the 5 Ws (who, what, when, why, where) of the story
- 2nd Paragraph: Supportive information and at least one quote
- Other paragraphs: Additional, relevant, non-essential information
- Call to Action: An exact, complete, non-embedded URL (not “Click Here to visit website”) in one of the paragraphs
- Conclusion: A brief description of your organization
- Media Contact Information: Name, email, phone, and website
A Press Release Should Not:
- Be longer than 1 page
- Have a lot of formatting
- Include exclamation points (unless it’s a direct quote)
- Exaggerate or make false claims
- Use the words: I, we, our, me
Distribution of a Press Release:
- Develop a media contact list of people you will send the release to
- Send the release to an actual person, or at least to a specific news department
- Use a detailed subject line in your email (not simply “Press Release”)
- Post the release on your website
- Share the release on social media
- Utilize a press release distribution service like PRNewsWire
Incorporating all of this information into your press release should result in a well-organized, relevant article that is newsworthy. Here is an example of a press release that you can utilize to announce your acceptance into the program.
Final word on PR for Startups
PR activities must be tied to solid business objectives. In other words, use PR in conjunction with the following key objectives (and other marketing tactics), and you will have an easier time assessing success:
- Market launch
- Brand awareness
- Company growth
- Customer acquisition
If key PR principles are applied properly, it can be a boost for any brand or product looking to generate awareness and earn the attention of key influencer groups. It’s recommended that during fundraising you release AT LEAST ONE PRESS RELEASE PER MONTH.
These can be as simple as a major KPI announcement, milestone completion, or partnerships- partnerships are often the easiest and best way to create great PR content on the web. The first thing an investor does is google you and if you don’t have a website or web presence, if you don’t have a LinkedIn even, often that can be a red flag for a potential investor.