How to respond to the dreaded: “Let’s do some PR for this”

The dynamics of communications

  1. Your audience
  2. How accessible that audience is to you
  3. The message you want an audience to understand
  • We need to send a marketing email (target market, owned, marketing promotion)
  • We need to let our partners know about this new release (partners, owned, product announcements)

#1. You want to reach new people in your target market to tell them about a new product release.

  • co-marketing
  • a social media campaign (part earned, part paid)
  • media

#2. You want to reach new people in your target market to build brand awareness.

  1. Focus on reach via search (be interesting enough to get backlinks)
    Here’s a great post on using content to build your reach in search
  2. Focus on reach via the media (be interesting enough to get coverage)
    Here’s something I wrote about using content to get press coverage

Elevating your “PR” conversations

  • Communications: I prefer to talk about communications rather than PR, it’s a more precise word that says what you are doing “communicating a thing.” Nearly every tech startup is good at communicating a thing to customers, prospects, etc. We’re less good at communicating a thing to employees, prospective employees, and partners.
  • Media relations: I’ve talked about this already. But if every time someone says “PR” you say “media relations” you will be well on your way to shifting the conversation away from “do a press release” toward “build strong, ongoing relationships with members of the press.”
  • Corporate communications: This refers to a specific type of message. Corporate communications include things like a notable executive hire, an acquisition, a funding round, a new office, a new milestone, or corporate giving initiative. While tech startups are often good at making product announcements, we’re less good at providing steady updates on company news. These types of communications are rarely headline grabbers, but they tell a consistent story about company performance that is valuable for partners, investors, and prospective employees.
  • Employer brand: These are communications that are specifically tailored to people who might be interested in working for you (more about employer brand here). It’s an often forgotten part of communications work. Tech startups often think that press coverage will result in loads of new signups…it rarely does, but that doesn’t mean press coverage doesn’t matter. It’s often an incredible way to attract new employees, and reframing that internally will help your leaders understand why local press might actually be more desirable than national press.
  • Crisis communications: If you want to see how absolutely terrible most companies are at communicating during a crisis, just take a look through all the pointless COVID-19 emails in your inbox and contrast it with this legitimately thoughtful response from HubSpot. Most tech startups are not prepared to communicate effectively regarding a product outage, national crisis, or internal upheaval. If your boss is pressuring you about “doing some PR” it could be a good time to talk about how building good media relations today can help your during times of crisis.
  • Executive communications: Sometimes the best way to reach new people in your target audience isn’t pitching directly to the press at all, it’s your executive team! Get them to make a video and share it on LinkedIn, or write a blog post, or maybe share these assets with a journalist and see if they’d like an interview. If your boss wants media attention, ask them to put in some time to help you make that happen.

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Janessa Lantz

Janessa Lantz

Building the marketing team at dbt Labs