PR for early stage startups

This morning I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of start ups (and one scale up!) participating in the Horizons Accelerator program at River City Labs. The topic I was asked to present on was PR 101.

The startup world, especially, when it comes to PR can be seductive. The thought of seeing your product or service up in lights is attractive. When you're still working towards a minimum viable product (MVP), a fully-fledged PR campaign is unlikely to be the best use of your limited funds, time and resources.

So what is a founder to do? Well, at Deane & Co we have a saying, "Invest in getting your house in order." That is to say, if you are about to open a bricks and mortar store you don't throw open the doors, invite people in to look and shop with empty shelves. In this crucial time when you're still working to prove your concept, spend the time getting your house in order with these simple steps.

Create a 1-page general media release or fact sheet
Should media come knocking, you're going to want an easy to access one page media release at the ready. It shouldn't be a novel, but it should give readers the who, what, when, where, why and how of your business. At the very least it is brilliant practice at being able to succinctly describe what you do. Add a few quotes from yourself or your co-founder, include examples of the problem you solve, who the journalist should contact if they want more information and a link to hi-res images they can use in a story. Which leads me to the next point...

Have a library of images
Headshots and general lifestyle images of your product and/or service will be invaluable should you embark on a PR campaign. Aim for images that are a minimum of 1MB in size and don't rely on the standard "founder standing against a wall in branded t-shirt" pose. Think outside the box and perhaps get the photographer to photograph you at your favourite cafe. Get a variety of images in portrait and landscape.

Know 5 things you could confidently talk about that are happening in your industry
Sometimes PR is talking about the bigger picture things influencing your industry. Think about and write down five things you could talk about  relevant to your industry but doesn't put a megaphone up to your startup and says, "Me, me, me." For example, are you able to talk about what it takes to source an overseas manufacturer, have you started a business in a traditionally male-dominated arena, or are you seeing travel trends influence how consumers book and spend their leisure time? All of these are ways you can promote your experience and as a by-product your startup.

Something to consider: the financial investment of engaging a PR agency or contractor in your early days might be better invested in, for example, engaging a business development manager, a digital marketing strategy or similar. Food for thought! 

If you have questions about PR and marketing for your business in 2018 contact me via

Image Credit: Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Claire Deane