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When is the best time to get started with a PR solution?

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“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” Arnold H. Glasow

Launching your startup or product is a process which must be perfectly timed to maximize the chances of success. While the temptation lies to scream your announcement from the rooftops as soon as you finish your prototype, doing so could actually damage your success in the long run. In this article we will offer tips for the best time to approach a PR solution – either with a PR agency or on your own – and how to assess whether your company, website, and business plan are adequately prepared to be pushed into the spotlight of media and public scrutiny.

Take a step back and analyze whether you are ready for PR

The media has become saturated with startup announcements, and journalists from leading publications receive up to 100 emails and pitches per day. As a result, being totally prepared before you reach out to a journalist is essential, as you may only receive one chance to make your company and your idea shine, or find your pitch dismissed at a glance. Before starting any sort of PR campaign it’s important that you have the following things ready:

  • A finished product, or workable prototype which you can show to journalists/potential investors.
  • A professional website, which doesn’t look like it was made in computing class back in the 90s.
  • A press pack, including founder and company information, contact information, your logo, photos, and videos of your product.
  • If your product is an app, it should be have been released or at least ready for release on iOS or Android App stores

Choose the perfect moment

If the question is when is the best time to start preparing your company for PR, the answer is now.

Some industry sources state the best timeframe to give yourself is three to six months of preparation before your intended announcement or launch date, to give the PR agency time to plan out your campaign in order to prepare your press release, gather contacts and then begin outreach to publications. However, the PR industry is highly competitive nowadays, and many agencies offer a much faster turnover, assuming you tick all the boxes for being prepared. Too much time is never going to be a problem, too little time may well be.

Pitching to the media is not as simple as having a good idea. The process involves consultations with the PR firm to best align your aims and target market, time to make a draft and edits of a press release, reviews and approvals, and finally time to create an outreach list of appropriate publications. Most firms will then offer exclusives to leading publications, which is time consuming as each pitch must be left to sit for at least 24 hours before another journalist can be offered the announcements. Once picked up, different publications require varied amounts of time from first contact until final publication:

General Consumer Magazines (e.g. Vogue): three-five months

Regional Magazines (e.g. New York Magazine): two months

Trade Magazines (Gourmet Retailer): two months

Newspapers (e.g. Washington Post): two – six weeks

Blogs/Web Sites (e.g. Killerstartups): one – four weeks

Make sure you have clear aims

The next question you should ask yourself is, what do you want to achieve? Your announcement could be to gain attention about your company or product launch, direct attention to your website and service, attract investors to your crowdfunding campaign, or raise your profile due to an acquisition or the addition of a high-flying new member of staff, but it needs to be something! Simply announcing that your company is amazing, and your product is the most “revolutionary, disruptive” thing to ever hit the market, is not going to gain any coverage.

“The media are no longer interested in hearing about you and you alone,” said Steve Cody, a contributor with Inc.com. “They want to know about your target audience’s wants and needs, and how you are uniquely filling them.”

Having a clear idea of your target market and how your product can improve their lives and make a difference is of paramount importance. It will dictate the course that your PR campaign will take.

Have a long term plan

As shown above, the time between contacting a journalist, getting picked up, and getting published could take as long as a few months. When undertaking a PR campaign, it is important to maintain a stiff upper lip. Once the process is underway, results can be slow or non-existent, but it is important to make a PR strategy which includes more than one announcement. For example, you could announce the launch of your beta version or the launch of your crowdfunder campaign, then follow up with the official launch of the product or service.

Once you do land a media hit, it will give your company more social proof, drive traffic to your product/service, and help your company grow. Building a good relationship with journalists and publications is extremely important. Keep your scoop sweet and they might well release your next announcement too.

The media downturn that has taken place since the late 2000s means there are less full-time journalists being employed by leading publications. As a result, there are less funnels for the announcements from thousands of new startups emerging globally each year. There are no guarantees within the PR industry, and any PR agency which makes such claims are probably not worth their weight in salt. However, if a company has a strong idea and announcement and takes all of the necessary steps to ensure they are ready to begin a campaign, the chances are that someone out there is going to be interested in hearing about it. Tech journalists are like elephants, they never forget. Make sure that your first impression is a positive one.

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Craig Corbett
Craig Corbett is a Scottish journalist based in Medellin, Colombia. He is principal at media incubator ESPACIO, senior writer for PR startup Publicize and a regular contributor for Entrepreneur magazine. He covers startup culture, media relations and PR, and media strategies for growing companies.