This article was contributed to VENTUREAPP by Kevin McLaughlin, cofounder & principle of Resound Marketing, a startup’s strategic partner for all things PR & marketing.
The dream – your company or product launches with a huge splash, generating headlines across The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, to TechCrunch and Mashable, to as far and wide as Cat Fancy – and beyond. Coverage appears in all your favorite media outlets, reaching all those prospective customers, valuable partners, wealthy investors, and the laundry list of other key stakeholders (including your parents).
Admittedly, not all launches will deserve quite that much fanfare, but it is your big moment and likely your meatiest PR campaign of the year.
But after the launch, many company founders (and often their PR teams) are left with the “what next” stare, at least when it comes to their media relations efforts. From an operational standpoint, growth hacker Andrew Chen has labeled this phase the “Trough of Sorrow.” Without that sizzling company news or a pipeline of new features, partners, or funding announcements – what do you have to bend the ear of influential media and maintain that launch momentum?
Odds are, you are sitting on a pile of powerful PR tools. Post-launch startups need to get creative and turn their business assets into a PR arsenal, to drive ongoing PR and media placements.
Beyond the standard news release, here are 7 campaign categories to help power your PR effort beyond your company or product launch. Feel free to copy/paste right into your next PR proposal or marketing plan:
- The Objective Expert: Here is where you offer to talk about the industry, and not just your own wares. Introduce company founders and essential team members to key press contacts as objective experts, asserting them as a go-to resource to help interpret industry news. The payoff may not be immediate, but this goes a long way in cultivating strong press relationships – showing you know what they need.
- Bylined Articles/Contributing Authors: Turn professional perspectives into industry thought pieces. Start by crafting 4-6 of your best headlines (that you know will attract readers), along with a sub-head and/or 3-5 bullets as an abstract outlining the content and direction with a little more detail. Shop this around to media where you have seen other contributed, comparable pieces in mainstream business (Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, Business Insider, etc.) or respected industry-trade outlets.
- Popping off on Pop Culture: Relate what you offer and the problems you solve to press-soaked pop culture events of the season. There are more eyeballs among the general mass consumer audience than there is in your industry sector – so this increases your chances of coverage. If you are in Adtech or E-commerce, this means illuminating trends around Cyber Monday or breaking down the Super Bowl ad hype. If you are in EdTech, this means offering tips around back-to-school, graduation, or college application deadlines. If you sell into HR departments, this means assessing the culture of a sitcom workplace or creating personality archetypes of TV bosses or NBA coaches. Even if you sell a B2B service, you can still relate to how the general consumer audience may be affected or what they can learn from what is happening “behind the scenes,” even if you don’t actually sell directly to them.
- Data Points & Benchmark Reports: Mining the massive collection of your own data to pinpoint industry trends, and then editorialize the findings. Perhaps you can offer a yearly or quarterly assessment on the industry you serve, or even create a weekly or monthly index if you deal with more real-time data. Encourage relevant media to use these metrics in their ongoing coverage of your industry, and of course, offer to interpret that data for their specific angle, as needed.
- The Research-Department-for-Hire: Establish relationships to key editors and producers, encouraging them to request data-cuts and infographics to help illustrate their stories. Provide a few examples (ideally relating to a recent story that you could have enhanced with your data or visualtizations) so they clearly know the parameters of the data you can provide.
- Case Studies: This is a classic PR tool. Pull compelling customer stories from your roster, editorializing the story, and shopping to the press for interviews and feature placement. Just like bylines, you can start by pitching a headline with an abstract, before trying to develop a complete 2-4 page case study. Just make sure your customer has received the approval from their internal communications team. Often, you’ll find that the people using your product/service are thrilled to be a reference – for prospects or press – but sometimes they hit obstacles when they run it up the flagpole. Be proactive in vetting the opportunity thoroughly, so you don’t waste time or leave an editor hanging.
- Thematic Stories: Take a theme and then build a fully-baked story around it. The most effective packaged stories go beyond the company to pull statistics, research reports, studies, third-party experts, relevant news, etc. to lay out a comprehensive story for the press to claim as their own (think trends, tip sheets, best practices, etc.). Do as much of the story-building as you can, and you’ll find that making friends in the press becomes that much easier.
There is no silver bullet for PR success — just a lot of hard work and hustle. And if you look in the right places, you will find a bevy of compelling, attention-grabbing story lines that will maintain that steady drumbeat in the press. Now grab a few weapons from that PR arsenal, and get out there and make some noise!