Start Up PR MistakesAndy Barr at 10Yetis is my “go-to guy” for anything PR related. I asked him if he’d be kind enough to write a guest post for my blog.

He said no.

I reminded him about the incriminating photos I have of him dressed as a belly dancer doing unspeakable things to a well-known European politician.

10 minutes later the below landed in my inbox:
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It is safe to say that in my line of work I get to meet a fair few start up companies and being the brilliant judge of a situation that I am* I can sense those who “get it” and those who don’t. By “get-it” I mean the wonderful world of how to get the media light to shine on their business.

If you a reading this blog there is a good chance, courtesy of its high profile owner, that you are an entrepreneur and as such, wondering how to get some media exposure for your start up.

I could do one of those blogs that give a step by step guide to a press release (dull), or the Top 5 people to follow on Twitter that could transform public awareness of your business (@MikeButcher @Dan_Martin @Nero @charlesarthur @ruskin147 (imho)) but being honest, these are two a penny.

No, how’s about the Top 4 Public Relations Mistakes That Start Ups Make?

1. Are You Interesting Enough?

Being truly honest, and not many of your friends or family really will be… no one gives a fig about your new business. Unless your business is truly unique, life changing or generally does something amazing for the good of the world, journalists won’t give a fig either.

Many start ups that I have met have this dream of a massive launch campaign when really, they just need to hit the media playground running by giving interesting comments about the goings on in their sector to relevant media and use topical releases. Not saying don’t do a launch release, just don’t hang your entire marketing launch campaign off it.

The obvious exception is when you either have a massive/famous brand backer (and I am talking Coca Cola, Pol Pot, Disney etc). Even then, you are piggy backing on their name and the mentions you will get are not going to be that helpful, your “message/USP” will probably get lost.

2. Launch Parties – Hello 1990’s

A total waste of budget in my mind and what is more, the only people who will probably attend are friends and family. Some start ups have a romantic image of their launch event being similar to a post match sports interview; room full of journo’s, flash bulbs from snappers going off left right and centre and a poor PR drowning under the weight of media attention. The reality; most journos simply don’t have the time to get to launch events.

Journo’s would like to but budget cuts and time pressure means that this is just not going to happen. Some journo’s get hundreds of releases per day, and combined with the fact that one mid-level trade journo I know is required to churn out 15+ stories a day, they just don’t have time.

Instead of a party, better to take a couple of days out in London and go and individually meet your key target media. Either go for a coffee or “desk meetings” as they call them. You guessed it, you get a few minutes of their time perched next to their desk. Sounds naff, but this works hugely well.

3. Earth Shatteringly Interesting Press Release but No Media Contacts

Probably the only time where I will come out and openly say that a PR Agency can help with this… an agency is by no means essential, all the info is out there, it is just trying to find it and an agency should have the right contacts anyway and they will do it quicker.

You have an interesting product/service (see point one), you have a beautifully crafted press release but you then realise you don’t actually know the key journo’s. The likes of Twitter has made the art of engagement much easier, but there is nothing better than a well targeted release, sent to the right media and most importantly, followed up with a call.

A cheat way: Google your target press, find the journo’s that are most important to you and who has written similar stories, work out their email string i.e. [email protected] and follow up by ringing the switchboard and asking for them. Keep your story pitch short and never for the love of all that is holy ask them if they got your release. They did, and they hate that question!

4. You Get Media Attention But You Are Accidentally Dull

I have seen this happen a million times (well, nearly). The Start Up gets in front of the media they have been desperate to speak to and they either clam up with excitement or go for the “shotgun” approach of blurting out every bit of information they have. Both of these result in the journo wanting to get away from you very very quickly and worst case scenario, never talk to you again.

Journo’s are human too! If you say something interesting and engaging you will get their attention, they will remember you and they will come back to you for quotes/sound bites in the future. Why simply answer yes or no when you can give them a nice flowery, entertaining quote. Give them a quote that takes a pop at your nearest and dearest competitor and you are away.

Need more tips?

I am here on Twitter, [email protected] on email or visit our consumer and tech PR agency .


*When working in financial services PR I famously predicted on a radio show that there was more chance of The Loch Ness Monster swimming up the Thames than there was of a housing market crash – the day before the housing market crash.

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