Early startup

Getting PR right is a big part of your startup success story.

The fast rise to success of IrokoTV, the recent rise to twitter stardom of Nigerian rapper, Vic O with his diss track and this unlikely US Mayoral candidate who won an election have one thing in common: It is a PR strategy. Here are five lessons you should learn about PR for growing your startup.

Lesson 1: Take PR seriously for your startup

Take PR seriously because everything rises and falls on perception.

I recommend every startup should dedicate resources to their PR strategy. For example, at IrokoTV the PR effort is led by Jessica: who is responsible for all outward-bound communication. Her strategy has resulted in massive coverage of the startup in every major media brand including CNN, WSJ, Bloomberg and a host of others.

Even “small requests” to Jason for an expert opinion for a round-up post ended up on her table. Why? For the right reasons; because she is the face of the company on every outward-facing communication i.e. PR.

Jason Njoku LinkedIn response

At the early stage, it is important to delegate resources and time to how you want your startup to be perceived and scale this with time. This will mean having a dedicated media kit (at a minimum, a media kit should include your “about story”, what you do, your team, case studies, customer success stories/projects and testimonials).

Lesson 2: Know how to piggyback on stories to showcase your startup

Piggybacking is when you ride on the wave of a trending story or popular idea to promote your startup. If your brand is active on social media, you can start by following this guideline on how to leverage twitter to connect with your audience by leveraging trending stories or events.

A recent example is how Vic O, the Nigerian rapper, rode to fame on the back of Meek Mill and Drake’s feud by releasing a diss track that shot him to twitter stardom. Big Cabal’s Ebola facts and Ushahidi got massive success and user growth by swiftly responding to national challenges in their respective countries as technological solutions. You can do this by finding an approach that pitches your startup to a trend.

Lesson 3: Solve a major problem and give the solution away, free

When you are passionate to the pain points felt by a lot of your audience, you will discover several opportunities to help them. I must warn you that this does not translate to cash, but it brings a lot of goodwill that you can convert to revenue.

For example, the team at BudgIT released a budget deficit calculator that shows how to analyze Nigeria’s budget in a friendly way. It is actually a useful tool. In your own case, you can create a free tool, create an open-source application or write helpful resources and white paper for your target market. This can be leveraged for news outreach. Keep in mind that a good PR will give you additional perspective to get your startup in the news without sounding “too salesy”.

Opportunities like this include:

    • Doing a research and releasing the results or white paper for free,
    • Creating a free open source application like logistics tracking,
    • Free CV evaluation for job seekers on job/career websites,
    • A forever FREE integration plan by online payment company (worth N150,000) for SMEs.

Lesson 4: Be vocal and build a community around your product

To be vocal is to speak for your industry as a whole. Be the champion that talks about your niche, its challenges and solutions.

It can be as simple as creating a LinkedIn Group or building a dedicated community like American Express (an online payment company) did with the creation of Open FORUM; its global community for small business entrepreneurs who are potential users of their services.

As an individual, you can choose to be the first to enumerate the needs, predict the future and direct the course for your industry. You will soon become the thought leader in that space and everything will revolve around you as the market leader. For example, Don Jazzy, Jason (IrokoTV), Sim Shagaya (Konga), Gbenga Sesan (PIN) and Michael Essien (HotelsNG) are masters at the game. Are you?

Lesson 5: Create mouthwatering giveaways and deals worth talking about

Deals are amazing. Even Nigerian Telcos make a big buzz out of their promotions.

You should too.

You can organize contests worth talking about that will also grow your customer base. A good example includes DropBox with their dazzling growth numbers of 100k registered users to 4M registered users in just 15 months. That’s a 3900% growth over 15 months!

Before you create a giveaway, it is important to ensure that it will attract the kind of audience that will patronize your business. For example when this respected marketer was giving away iPads to his instagram followers, he sadly realized that people entered the giveaway only because of the gift and not because of their interest in his service. You want to avoid that.

At the same time, don’t give away blind discounts that will not result in repeat buyers. Recently, a well-funded startup shut down because it could not sustain business by repeatedly offering discount services.

Lesson 6: Be Proactive with Tools 

This sixth lesson is an extra, but it is powerful enough to deserve your attention. It is about tools.

One of the tools you should use to be on the edge of news and events around your business is Google Alerts. This is a free service that enables you get updates on key words important to you and your business. There are other budget friendly tools you must keep in your arsenal to enable you to consolidate your PR strategy effectively.

CONCLUSION

The peak of your PR management is to know how to respond to users’ complaints on social media and actively shape the perception of your startup in the marketplace. A real life example happened in 2013 between Arik Air and one of their passengers – Japheth Omojuwa.

It all started when Japheth lost his iPad during one of his inter-city flights onboard the Airline and then things got messy. Instead of turning this to an opportunity, Arik Air later banned him from flying their airline. The story was everywhere back then ; it was a poor decision that resulted to a major PR mess for them on social media.

Unlike Arik Air, Sheraton Hotels showed there is a better approach that works when you are faced with customer complaints or when you want to boost your startup PR in managing customer complaint (as reported in this free report)

When you are proactive with your PR, you have a chance to create a positive perception and during unpleasant feedback, you can also turn an unhappy customer into a happy one (who might also become one of your biggest supporters).

So, how are you planning to use PR to grow your startup?

Editor’s note: Wole Ogunlade is a digital marketing expert; he is the editor of SpokenTwice.com, a blog dedicated to teaching marketing topics covering conversion optimization, growth hacking and marketing automation strategies. You can connect with him on linkedin. Or twitter @spokentwice.

Photo Credit: concretecandy via Compfight cc

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