Public relations, growth channels, virality – they all have a role in the elusive world of startup PR & marketing. And oh how elusive it is…
How should you identify the channel that will be successful for your startup? How should you calculate the ROI of your startup PR efforts?
Every startup is in search of media traffic that will convert to users that will ultimately convert to long-term customers. Pulling the right levers from a PR & marketing perspective is an age old quandary and what works for one startup could — or could not — work for the next one.
We’ve incorporated a number of marketing channels and tactics over the past two years. From the beginning, we’ve focused on the data to help us measure what works and what doesn’t. No source of traffic and sign-ups has been more effective than press and the associated word of mouth.
Cut to this week: we promoted the fact that we raised $4M in new funding and we experienced a perfect storm of PR and exposure which drove more than 1,300 signups.
First, we briefed Ryan Lawler at TechCrunch on our $4M funding and our plans for VentureApp, and he wrote this article on Monday, which excellently captured our mission: With $4M in funding, VentureApp wants to be WhatsApp for your professional network.
On Wednesday, we woke up to discover we had been ‘Hunted. Kristofer Minkstein, the co-founder of Lamplighter Labs, saw us on TechCrunch and posted the following on ProductHunt: VentureApp: WhatsApp for Your Professional Network. Great, right? Well, yes, but we weren’t quite finished planning our strategy to maximize the extra exposure. Of course we rallied as a team to see how much success we could extract from this channel (and we are super competitive so we knew we had to stay on the front page all day).
Obviously these channels drove a solid amount of signups for us. But, disclosure – we are a chat app for your professional network. Not only are chat apps growing faster than social networks, there really isn’t a dedicated chat app that caters to the needs of professional communication (vs. all of the chat apps for social communication like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc., etc.). The people that hang out on TechCrunch and ProductHunt are our perfect audience. They love the convenience of chat and want an experience that blocks out the noise and spam they experience on LinkedIn.
Have you experienced VentureApp yet? Sign up and start chatting with your professional network today!
Given the success we saw, we were compelled to dig deep into the data to hopefully help other businesses looking to invest in PR, and also to better form our own promotion strategies in the future. Now let’s jump into the hits and break down the data to see which performed better.
Our article hit Monday at 12 pm ET. Here are some of the results we saw over the next two days:
Overall, TechCrunch drove 945 sessions, with 537 sessions in day 1.
84.97% of those were new sessions, driving 803 new visitors to the site. All in all, visitors from TechCrunch spent on average 1:51 minutes on page.
Here is a breakdown of the new signups referred from TechCrunch:
- Monday: 290
- Tuesday: 236
- Total: 526
Kristofer posted VentureApp to ProductHunt on Wednesday at 11 am ET. The results we saw for the rest of the week were also strong:
From Wednesday to Friday, ProductHunt drove 1,588 sessions, with 997 sessions in day 1.
86.4% of those were new sessions, driving 1,372 new visitors to the site. ProductHunt visitors spent slightly longer on site with 2:15 minutes as the average session duration.
Here is a breakdown of the new signups referred from ProductHunt:
- Wednesday: 510
- Thursday: 227
- Friday: 65 (as of 5pm ET)
- Total: 802
When Friday at 5pm ET rolled around, we looked back at the entire week and had 2,533 sessions on ventureapp.com and 1,328 new signups from both TechCrunch and ProductHunt. That’s a 52.4% conversion on traffic to signup – not bad for one week.
Making Startup PR Work for You
A lot of components go into achieving PR success that makes an impact on your business. Here are the few important facets that go into prepping and executing on a strong PR strategy that will have an impact on your growth:
Discern product market fit
This should be your number one business goal from the beginning but it’s especially important to feel confident about this going into a national media push so as to attract the RIGHT customers.
Talk to customers
Assuming you’ve attracted a solid base of loyal users that believe in your mission, the best thing you can do is talk to them to learn as much as possible. The same goes for users who aren’t all-in on your business. Each and every user can provide you with the good & bad feedback that will help shape your messaging, your future features, and your overall direction. All of this feedback and direction paired with customer momentum will subsequently help you hone in on the angle that will resonate with the media.
Determine your PR goals
It’s not always about clicks and visits – many successful PR programs are built to drive awareness and thought leadership in your industry. And, while the benefits and results of awareness campaigns are not always as measurable, they are effective. A single thought piece can make potential users more aware of the challenges they are facing, how common they are for others, and the existence of solutions like yours. This coverage can similarly be leveraged in other content and social campaigns to drive an integrated approach to conversion. Also, awareness campaigns are extremely valuable if your product isn’t quite ready to capture leads from lead-gen focused PR.
Fine tune your messaging
Users respond to concise and compelling messaging, and the very same goes for reporters. Even more so than users, reporters will reject marketing and sales speak. They want to be spoken to like a human and are drawn to businesses and founders who are real – about success, challenges, learnings, etc.
Extract news items to capitalize on
Reporters are hungry for content that no one else has reported or read about yet. They want access to the people and businesses who are making moves but they want first access, or at least equal access, to improve their chances that readers choose to read THEIR article about your business. So, it’s up to you to make that easier for them, in order to make your PR goals more achievable for you.
How can you do this? Well, your team accomplishes a lot of great things every day and your business is (hopefully) growing & evolving week over week. If PR is a near-term goal for your business, it’s important to constantly plan ahead as much as possible, and keep in mind the potential for news that you can leverage with reporters. This could be anything from a funding event, to new customer or partner momentum, to big name customer or partner announcements, to product launches or updates, and so on and so on. As you go about building your business internally, always keep in mind the moments and developments that could help build your external story with support from the media.
Plan ahead and compile supporting materials
Planning ahead is clearly a trend here… once you’ve decided that a future company development is worthy of a PR push, you must ready your team and your product, and create supporting materials that a reporter might require in order to cover your business. This could include a press release, blogs, team headshot, product screenshots, FAQs, and more.
Ensure your website and mobile presence is optimized for conversion
A solid PR push will attract interested readers to your site. What do you want them to do once they get to your site? Ensure your site is ready to capture those potential leads with clear messaging, a clear call to action, and various touch points to move them through your marketing funnel to drive sign ups, retention, and ultimately happy users.
Find the right target(s)
The current state of the media is frenzied to say the least. Many news rooms have slimmed down over the years which puts more work on each reporters plate. Pair that with the fact that just about anyone can be a publisher these days, reporters are tasked with multiple breaking news stories a day, and are typically required to hit a certain amount of clicks, page views, shares, etc. per piece. It’s important to be extremely targeted with your outreach to ensure you capture a reporter’s attention.
When choosing the right reporter, make sure they cover your industry, your company size, your end user, and more. Bottomline, do your research — and show them you’ve done your research — when you reach out to them. Ultimately, they want to know that your company will help them reach their article goals with a solid story and supporting proof.
Speak their language
Most reporters like to be contacted via email with the rare exception of those who are open to texts, calls, DMs. They want to know a few things: what’s the news, why is it important, who cares currently, who would care, and what sort of first-access do they have to this news (is there an embargo date when the news will lift, or even better, can you offer them an exclusive on the news?)… Simple, right?
Timing is everything
You could have all of the above components locked and loaded but if you hit a reporter on a week when they have six other news stories that are taking up a majority of their time, or they’re at SXSW, etc., you might strike out with that reporter. You can either be flexible on timing (if possible) or move on to the next best target. Either way, it’s best to plan for hiccups along the way and give yourself extra time to get the PR hit that will make the most impact on your business. Once you have a reporter’s interest, be prepared to move fast and get them the information and materials they need in a timely manner.
PR is part science, part art – part timing, part luck. The process never goes quite as expected, but sometimes the outcome can be even better.