How To Hack PR For Your Startup!
Need to hack PR for your startup? Press Marketing, PR Marketing, Public Relations, Online PR or simply PR — are all just different names for the same strategy. PR is so powerful. Sometimes great press articles can drive tens of thousands of dollars worth of business for my startups, but can also cost about the same if you hire an agency to handle it for you. Well, if you know anything about AndrewStartups, I’m all about growth hacking and saving money for early stage startups so I’m going to teach you exactly how I hack PR for some of the best startups in the world.
Over the past 12 years, I’ve worked with startups all over the world and each company had different budget constraints. You’ll hear me say this over and over again, I believe that early-stage stage startups should NEVER hire a PR agency if they’re cash-strapped. Hack PR instead!
You need to know how to generate your own buzz so that once you have the funds to hire a professional PR agency, they can expedite your growth, and build on the PR program that you’ve already put in place yourself. Below are 6 steps to help you hack PR for your startup.
Step 1. Figure out your keywords/topics:
What are the keywords and topics that people are writing about which relate to your business? For most projects, my aim is to find 3 categories/topics/key phrases for relevancy. For example, a travel app that uses AI to help with travel booking will be interesting to reporters who write about Tech, Travel, and Business, not just travel. Identify these keywords/terms and head over to Google Alerts and set up alerts for each of them (don’t worry I’ll explain why in a second).
So again, going back to the travel app I’m going to set up alerts for “ AI startup” “Artificial Intelligence Apps” “travel startup” “travel industry news” “ digital nomad trend” and so on….Why do this? Simple, because I want to see which writers are writing stories that I can be a part of. Every day I check these alerts and visit Google News to see if I missed any terms (customizing your google news saves hours here monthly).
Pro Tip: Go to Google News to find reporters talking about your industry, solution, problem, market, competitors etc.
Step 2. Create relationships with Reporters:
If you followed step one, you should now be seeing everyone who is writing relevant stories about your industry. The beauty of being able to hack PR is that 90% of these articles have the writers’ contact information.
If the direct email isn’t available, there’s a good chance that the social handles are. So every day, I’ll grab the relevant email addresses, social handles, etc and place them into a google sheet. This list can be built over the course of product development, or in expectation of a launch. If the contact is prominent enough, I will email them immediately saying that I loved their article and offer them an exclusive feature for their next piece.
The focus here should be about creating value for the writer and not just asking for free promotion. One of my favorite personal quotes is, “Spam isn’t spammy if there’s enough value for the recipient”. If the article doesn’t have an email, I’ll add the individual on Twitter, tweet them, ask for a follow-back and then send a DM. I will continue doing this until my PR Hacking List reaches about 300–500 entries. FYI — most reporters put their email address on their publications directly to entice people like me to send them stories! Utilize this to start building a relationship with them. Don’t be spammy, but create value for them.
Pro Tip: Make a list of all the emails of the reporters you find. Keep them in a Google Doc like this.
Step 3- Make Your Own Milestones!
This is another one of my favorite quotes. Often times when I work with early-stage startup founders on PR Marketing they tell me that they don’t have anything newsworthy. To that, I immediately call BULLSHIT! Just because you don’t have a $1,000,000 revenue stream yet or 500k monthly uniques visitors doesn’t mean you don’t have something newsworthy. Think about your mission that you initially set out to complete, are you further along than when you started? Think about your data, is your product solving the problem it set out to? Have you mapped your millionth data point?
At another travel startup I was lucky enough to hack PR for, the founder told me he had nothing I could use for PR, so I sat for an afternoon with the engineering team to see what they were working on. Turns out, they had created the world’s largest database of categorized hotel review sentiments. That might sound boring to you, but to a writer who writes about hotels, travel or big data that’s sexy as hell! I spun it up into a PR Marketing campaign and we got 4 nationwide articles with no spend. This company got acquired 4 months later. Find some sexy, relevant news story based on what YOU are doing, even if you haven’t fully done it yet. Try to push out at least 1 story per quarter even if you’re deep into product development, just maintain thought leadership and industry awareness.
Pro Tip: If your startup is going for fundraising try to do 1 per month!
Step 4- Hack your own PR!
This doesn’t have to be a scary mountain to climb. Writing a press release is all about making it very easy for reporters to do their job. They are usually quite LAZY. They want relevant, copy-pasteable chunks of writing that they can simply regurgitate onto their article to look like they’re amazing at their job. If you can help them be lazier, you’ll win more. Just remember three main rules: Focus on the value for the reader, keep it simple, and include a lot of numbers, quotes, and facts. Also include a sexy title, a subtitle that goes further in depth and make sure your date is the day you email the release out. Reporters will insta-delete your email if the PR is outdated. They need fresh news. See image below for structural tips.
Press releases are pretty simple to make. The above orange markers are a good bullet point checklist for your next Press Release on what you should include.
Step 5- Distribute your Press Release.
This is the fun part. Start blasting that baby out. So many times companies spend a ton of time focusing on creating the press release, or any content, and not distribution. There are two main tasks here: 1 email your press release with a short and succinct paragraph to the press list you’ve been cultivating ( I use a free MailChimp Account with every company email address). Be sure to personalize the email subject with first name and organization so the open rates are higher. 2 send direct emails to the biggest press contacts a few days prior. I like to title direct emails with the word EXCLUSIVE, and yes, in all caps. Offering the big dogs exclusives will create more value for them, and therefore make it more likely that you’ll get that nationwide press release push your company needs. Work with them, see what they need to be better at their job and then provide it. We’re all just people trying to work. Remember that. They need you too, so help them out.
Pro tip: To learn exactly how to hack distribution of your press release, I recommend taking my online course: http://bit.ly/2VTSBUr
Step 6- Stay on top of reporters
I recommend using a free ESP like MailChimp (free under 2k email list) to send out your press emails, this way; you can easily track open rates. A lot of times reporters will open the email, start working on your content, forget and then move on. But if you stay on top of them you 10x your chances of getting featured. I also recommend copying the email campaign in your ESP, and resending to the segment that didn’t open the previous email every 3 days. Just keep hammering them until they either set up a chat or ask to be removed from your list. More often than not, the response will just be a “Thanks… Will be in touch”. But that one-liner isn’t good enough, the goal is to start building a relationship with the people who tell the story in your industry. Get noticed, become a go-to source and eventually a thought leader.
Pro Tip: Also spend some time distributing your press release on free sites like PRlog.org, Reddit (The Startup Subreddit for instance), Flipboard, StumbleUpon etc. You can even repurpose your press release into a blog post and post it on your blog, which can then be shared on social media etc. Just be sure to wait a few days after sending to the PR contacts, before you post publicly.
If you like what you’re reading about how to Hack PR, I highly suggest you dive deeper into how to hack PR for your startup by enrolling in Bootstrapped!, the online course I spent 6 months developing that goes over not only exactly how I build 500 email strong press lists from scratch, craft authentic and engaging press releases and how to structure your press release distribution strategy, but also 8 other marketing channels as well! You should check it out.
Andrew Miller has spent 12 years growth hacking startup wins including 5 years in Dubai and 5 years in Silicon Valley. In Dubai, he was the first ever Marketing hire at Dubizzle (now one of the largest classifieds on earth) where he launched the company in 20 new markets before it was acquired in 2010. He then was Head of Marketing for GoNabIt which was acquired by LivingSocial in 2011. His third exit as Head of Marketing came in 2016 with OLSET, the San Francisco based travel tech startup that was acquired before ever making money, but 2 years into heavy content marketing and thought leadership by Andrew and his team. Since then he’s launched and grown tech projects in over 15 countries. He also has taught low-budget growth hacking strategies at incubators/accelerators around the globe. Andrew’s worked with both 500startups and YCombinator projects, written for StartupGrind and INC magazine, and been an avid startup advisor.
AndrewStartups has just launched a top of the line growth hacking online course called Bootstrapped! that includes over 40 HD videos and a 60-page interactive workbook covering 10 different, no budget growth hacking strategies. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2VTSBUr