by Elliot Tomaeno, founder of ASTRSK
When building your startup, you probably took a DIY approach to just about everything. You taught yourself how to fundraise, you learned how to identify an ideal home base, and you spent countless hours figuring out how to build your personal brand.
You probably feel pretty darn proud of yourself. I don’t blame you. Launching a company is no easy feat.
But, when it comes to establishing a public relations presence, many founders feel like this task is best left to the professionals. They figure they lack the time, connections, and overall know-how to raise brand awareness and get people talking.
It is possible to do PR on your own — and it’s much cheaper and easier than you’d ever imagine it to be. Unlike most of your other DIY projects, this one will take only a few hours a week and will barely put a strain on your wallet.
Here are four ways to take a DIY approach to PR:
1. You’ve Got a Friend in Me(dia).
The easiest way to spread your company message is to befriend the messengers: journalists. These folks are always on the hunt for approachable resources in their respective beats — and with a little legwork, you can easily become one.
Create a big list of all the journalists writing about your industry, and become a dedicated reader of their material. Dig through their archives, follow them on social media, and identify topical trends and personality quirks.
Then, find your common ground, and figure out how you can provide them with useful information. Send each writer a personalized message in which you introduce yourself, explain what your company does, and offer something of value — this can range from a unique stance on a hot topic to a sneak peak of your revolutionary product.
2. Opposition Research.
Keep your journalist friends close, but keep your competitors closer. Be proactive about monitoring what’s being bought, sold, and critiqued in your marketplace. Set up Google Alerts for news about rival companies, and always be prepared to swiftly react to ongoing developments.
For example, if Brand X — your most bitter rival — gets a negative write-up because of its subpar customer service skills, take this as an opportunity to stand on your soapbox and tell the world why your company takes pride in its bedside manner.
3. Lead the Discussion.
Don’t just sit around and wait to chime in on what other people are saying and doing. Get out there, and start up your own conversations.
If something about your industry is grinding your gears, hop on Twitter and ask a well-known industry influencer whether he or she agrees with you. Engage in some healthy back-and-forth on the topic, and create a nice paper trail of discourse that people across the social sphere can discover on their own time.
4. Put a Face to the Name.
While it can be tempting to hide behind your computer screen all day, it’s worth remembering there’s great value in face-to-face interaction. Don’t hesitate to arrange a coffee date with a journalist — or, better yet, invite some all to an open-bar launch party sponsored by your business. If you take this route, be sure to make a speech — or perhaps a brief toast — to talk about your brand, demo your product, and, obviously, thank them for attending.
Also, always be on the lookout for opportunities to attend (or even speak at) industry-specific conferences and meet-ups. These events are always jam-packed with entrepreneurs, journalists, and sometimes even venture capitalists who can help your company grow. Put on your power pants, and represent your brand with pride.
As with any good DIY project, you’ll need to do a little research before getting started — but whatever time you spend building a PR presence today will definitely pay off tomorrow.
These early efforts will set your PR wheels in motion — and once you’re ready to work with the true PR pros, all they’ll have to do is hit the gas and steer.
Elliot Tomaeno is the founder of ASTRSK, a PR agency based in New York City. Since 2012, ASTRSK has helped launch more than 200 startups and tech products and has worked with companies like Squarespace, Frank & Oak, Managed by Q, HelloFresh, Favor, ClassPass, and Havenly, as well as films such as “Ex Machina” and “Steve Jobs.”