What Role Should PR Play in Launching a Tech Startup?


The mistake many companies make in launching a startup is to ramp up for the launch and then say, “Now it’s time for PR.” This is a faulty approach. PR has a developmental process just like the buildup of a new company, and should be developed in parallel to tasks being done for the corporate and product launch. In this manner, when it’s time to cut the ribbon, the business is off and running.

Conversely, some companies also make the mistake of burning through precious cash for PR when they’re clearly not prepared to go to market. It’s a balancing act between managing time and cost versus entering the market and making a poor first impression.

With that, I’ve heard some say to save your financial resources and hold off on PR. There are of course many factors here (product, company status, trade shows, resources) but if you shop around you can find the right PR person who can help you launch correctly without breaking the bank. If you are planning on building a company and keeping your message within your four walls, well, good luck penetrating the market.

The bottom line is that a company has a list of items needed to be done to go to market and to be formidable upon launch, and PR is one of them. Industry evaluators have seen myriad companies emerge, and it’s essential that you have everything organized in a professional manner upon entry to be considered favorably.

Following are a list of PR initiatives needed for a corporate launch:

Planning and Implementing. To start, don’t skimp on research. There’s nothing worse than moving full-steam ahead and then having a mini crisis because another company owns your product name, blog title, or positioning. Second, PR should support all initiatives such as new hire releases, partnerships, beta or general availability customers, and trade show participation. The writing of informational documents, position papers, and white papers are also helpful storytelling tools.

Website. The company will be working with a website developer and someone will be writing and editing copy for the site. PR can help with this. All background material such as executive biographies, mission statements, value proposition, corporate backgrounder and corporate fact sheet should be written. These items can also be used for sales, marketing, and press kits.

Design. The PR team should work with staff to ensure that executive photographs are taken, company and product logos created, product screen shots and box shots (if applicable) developed. You don’t have to break the bank but don’t develop poor quality media either.

Messaging. A messaging workshop can identify positioning, differentiation, branding, competitive grid, and key talking points. Find out how you differ and what you bring to market that is new and exciting.

Media Training. The spokespersons should be trained to learn about key talking points tied to messages, focusing on one topic at a time, and how to answer questions.

News Release. A corporate launch news release should be written and distributed. The release would be distributed to local press, trades, business, and verticals. The release could also be used for search engines, social media, and email lists.

Presentation. The spokesperson and PR executive should work together to create a presentation to be used for online meetings and in-person briefings.

Product PR. A product demo and reviewer’s guidelines should be developed and ready for meetings. A new product release would be written and pitched to press and all efforts should follow a pre/during/post launch strategy.

Digital PR. This encompasses many disciplines but to start, I would recommend that search engine optimization be included in the website development. The company thought leader should begin to post on the company’s blog but also as a guest blog on some prominent sites. I would also encourage that a LinkedIn strategy be built and deployed that includes optimization, company page, showcase page, and a networking plan.

Vision Tour. The PR firm, in conjunction with the spokesperson’s availability and travel schedule, would schedule in-person press and analyst meetings, phone calls, and online presentations.

Along with the press and analyst vision tour, additional efforts to secure third-party endorsements are needed. A company should line up customers (starting at beta), business references, association members, analysts, and luminaries that they can use to attest to their spokesperson, company, and mission. Company executives should also attend networking events to make additional connections.

In closing, all of these outreach efforts should be done in a one-on-one basis rather than a shotgun approach or blast transmissions. There’s a lot here to get started but through proper planning and execution, the company can start off properly and begin to market its mission, product, and executives. A seasoned PR professional can work right through these efforts at a fast pace, while ensuring quality and professionalism.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Costello is the Founder and Principal of TechSposure. He is the Author of Tech PR Blueprint: How Any Tech SMB Can Become an Industry Giant, and taught courses at Boston University’s College of Communication and Emerson College School of Communication.

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