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How Digital PR Can Turn the Tide for Startups

The world of startups is a confounding one. The instant startup owners start to think that they’re out of the woods, they realize there’s still a long way to go. In such a scenario, anything that aids business success would be welcome. Digital PR can be an effective tool.

Implementing digital PR may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. And the results are well worth the effort. Further, it helps if you’re prepared to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

The top Challenges that Startups Face

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#1. Finding the Right Target Market

One of the first hurdles that your startup may encounter is finding the right target audience. These are the group of people who will be willing to try your company’s products and services if you tap them adequately. Asking yourself as to why you are in business and whose lives you’re looking to touch. The answers, coupled with the mission and the vision of your company, will help you figure out the demographic you should be catering to.

#2. Making Sales

So, you’ve managed to segment your audience and know who you want to reach out to, but does that guarantee you’ll make sales? Is your product just another offering in a market that is already inundated with similar products or solutions to customers’ problems? If you want to make sales, you will have to differentiate yourself from your competitors and show the value you offer.

#3. The Process of Evolution

You also have to consider the stage your company is in. Is it just starting out? Have you acquired any customers yet? Being an early-stage startup with a couple of success stories to its credit will only boost your brand. In such a case, your marketing and PR team can get in touch with your customers and formulate case studies to highlight the merits of your offerings.

Forging long-term relationships with customers (even the happy ones) takes tremendous effort. Most large companies designate full-time teams for this. Obtaining valuable success stories and the permission to use them to boost the brand is a major task in itself. As a startup owner, you should know that your success is directly linked with customer delight and advocacy.

#4. Ever-Changing Market

Brands, nowadays, depend heavily on technology for managing day-to-day business operations. Technology changes at an incredible speed and startups may find it difficult to keep up. However, all is not lost.

Harness the power of anticipation and figure out upcoming major opportunities the digital advertising and PR sector will create for your customers. Create new products that deliver accordingly. Don’t hesitate to innovate and make it a point to stay focused on your goals, and you should be good!

#5. Making Your Presence Felt

Differentiating yourself from your competitors will not only enhance your sales figures, but also help you announce your arrival in the market. The rewards of this can be great. Tremendous opportunities exist for startups as switching costs for interested customers are low.

That’s only natural because only interested customers would be willing to try new technology. However, once you begin to make your mark, do not start taking your success for granted. Continue to improve your offerings to stay ahead of the competition. Trust me, it’s always going to be around!

Examples of Successful and Unsuccessful Startups in Recent Times

Meerkat

Launched in February 2015, Meerkat is a live-streaming app that syncs with Twitter and enables users to stream and share videos in real time. The app went down very well with Product Hunt users soon after it was posted to this startup and app discovery platform. Further, SXSW lapped it up, allowing it to quickly expand its customer base.

In its first week itself, Meerkat acquired 28,000 users. While it initially depended on Twitter for its social graph, Twitter did briefly cripple Meerkat by acquiring Persicope and limiting Meerkat’s access. However, when it comes to using these apps, both witnessed similar engagement as on April 2015.

Uptake Technologies

Named as one of the eight startups to watch out for in 2015 by Fortune, Caterpillar-backed tech startup Uptake was incorporated in 2014 by Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell. In 2015, Forbes stated that this “nearly unknown” firm is a “secretive data analytics startup that popped up in Chicago this October when it raised $45 million at a valuation north of $1 billion–barely a year after its incorporation.”

Uptake beat other industry stalwarts such as Uber, Slack and DoorDash to clinch the title of 2015’s hottest startup. As on October 2015, Uptake was valued at $1.1 billion after raising $45 million.

This, however, does not mean that startups that don’t fare well are to be disregarded. In fact, disregarding them is the last thing you want to do as there are several lessons that only stories of failures can teach new entrepreneurs. It helps to know what caused their downfall so as to dodge those elements when starting your own venture.

According to Forbes, 90% startups fail. The reasons for this are several. Let’s have the look at the following two startups to understand more.

Quirky

Quirky was launched by Ben Kaufman in 2009 to help regular people turn their ideas into real products and sell them in stores nationwide. It was meant to serve as a platform where people could vote for product ideas they loved. It also created a subsidiary Internet of things business namely Wink, which made hubs for smarthomes.

However, several of Quirky’s products received almost nil margins. Exorbitant amount of money was spent on manufacturing with negligible sales taking place. In fact, the Wink division experienced tumultuous times, accompanied by a failed security update lead to the nationwide call-back of all its smarthome hubs.

As your may have guessed, the startup was out of funds and filed for bankruptcy. It struggled to change its business models after several rounds of layoffs and ultimately sold its Wink smarthome business for $15 million.

Secret

Founded by David Byttow, Secret was an app that enabled anonymous postings of short texts with friends, family or on a public platform. More often than not, these texts would have been rumors and/or confessions. The app gained tremendous recognition at SXSW and climbed the ladder along with competitor anonymous sharing apps like PostSecret, Yik Yak and Whisper. However, Secret started experiencing cyberbullying issues and ended up redesigning itself to resemble Yik Yak.

On April 29, 2015, Byttow announced his decision to shut the company down, claiming that the way the app was being used, including the spreading of malicious rumors, was not in line with what he had originally envisioned. Of the decision to return the money to investors rather than attempt to pivot, he wrote, “Innovation requires failure, and I believe in failing fast in order to go on and make only new and different mistakes.” He also promised to eventually publish postmortems “so that others can learn from the unique mistakes and challenges we faced and the wisdom gained from such an incredible 16 months.”

Digital Public Relations (PR)

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Digital PR agencies can be the most powerful allies for startups that want to make a name for themselves in the world of big brands.

In traditional PR, practitioners use high circulation, readership, and viewer ratings to decide who to approach when pitching content to media houses and publishers.

Digital PR, on the other hand, focuses on the number of followers/readers on social networks before approaching them. It also considers your domain influence and open opportunities for link citations. This gives digital PR a better shot at being effective than traditional PR.

Wondering if digital PR will fit into your marketing strategy? It will if you make sure that it is in line with your SEO and digital marketing strategies. It can strengthen weak landing pages and boost site traffic. When combined with SEO, digital PR can take advantage of key search terms and get the most coverage on the material people are consuming on the Internet globally.

This is sure to humanize your brand and help you create an emotional connect with your customers. That is, after all, the goal!

Convinced that Digital PR is right for you? Here are 7 ways to use it favorably:

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#1. Know your advantage

When starting your company, always have your competitive advantage in mind as that is what will ultimately set your business apart from competitors. Use this factor to your benefit in your digital PR campaign. This way your audience will know exactly how valuable your brand is and you will find tremendous business coming in.

It is crucial to know and understand from the beginning that what differentiates you in a market flooded with products and services. Your offering may not necessarily be a breakthrough in your industry, but specifying why it is unique is of utmost priority. This will give your prospective customers a good reason to spend their time and money buying from you.

#2. Create buzz

Only a good digital PR agency will help you generate ample buzz for your company by using their deep knowledge and proficiency. One of the most effective and inexpensive ways of generating buzz is by creating positive word-of-mouth and through social media networks. Add PR to this mix and you’ve got yourself an unbeatable strategy to race ahead of your competitors and capture their market share.

#3. Generate interest among customers

Digital PR can play a significant role in providing the thrust needed to enhance your business’s success. If your efforts are directed towards breaking down some of the ways in which experienced marketing professionals get the word out about your business, you’re sure to create an impact. This includes practices such as building relationships with journalists or bloggers, or monitoring your reputation online.

#4. Get coverage for your story

Have you ever wondered why PR practitioners place major importance on establishing healthy working relationships with journalists? That’s because digital PR services and professionals are always looking for coverage, while journalists are always on the lookout for stories. An agency that maintains and uses effective media relations can pitch your startup and bring you a lot of recognition.

Receiving positive coverage is critical to building a strong customer base for your startup. It will earn you their trust and is a great way to obtain public credibility. Your startup should try and get favorable coverage via the media your target market uses the most.

#5. Optimize for search engine

In order to achieve this, you will need to integrate a robust SEO strategy with your digital PR campaign to enhance your brand’s image and increase its online visibility. This holds particularly true for startups.

They should focus on developing a strategy for SEO as soon as they collaborate with a digital PR agency. Doing so will be tremendously helpful in driving traffic to your startup’s website when prospective customers type in certain keywords in their online search. This is why you will do well to use keywords that are commonly used by your target market. Keywords help businesses gain better online visibility.

#6. Blog on the best websites

Use your digital PR agency’s expertise to get your posts submitted to high-authority websites such as Forbes and Huffington Post, and other blogs that your target market frequents. This will increase your startup’s credibility and provide it with the much-needed exposure. Simultaneously, you should also work on building relationships with other bloggers and gain links. This will go a long way in bringing traffic to your startup’s website, and increase brand awareness and sales.

#7. Establish your authority

We live in an age where social media dominates online interactions and exerts tremendous influence on all those who use it. With the help of a competent PR agency, you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry. This, in turn, will transform you into a thought leader, thereby making you a name to reckon with.

The great thing about being a thought leader is that a large number of followers consider them to be experts. Their opinions are instrumental in creating and pushing the boundaries on new ideas and traditional methods. Thought leaders constantly try new things, with their followers continuing to support them. Sharing your thoughts and opinion on a blog and having them shared repeatedly by your readers will lead to your brand name and business going viral.

You can leverage common social media networks to fortify your digital PR strategy.

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Facebook

Facebook is one social network that has become an addiction among its users. Popular among the masses, it can work as an effective platform to engage your audience by publishing and sharing unique content in the form of posts, infographics, videos, images, and links.

PR practitioners can make use of several of its features such as Mentions (open only to public figures), Facebook’s improved search function that makes public posts more accessible, Facebook’s shopping tab (not available to all) to partner with marketers and leverage it for better sales, Instant Articles (for iOS) to offer valuable content to customers, and Facebook Events to manage the many events that will be organized.

Further, Facebook’s ‘Donate’ button, Music Stories and Facebook Professional Services are other features that can be helpful to PR professionals.

Twitter

With its 140-character limit, Twitter can be helpful to PR practitioners at the time of making short announcements to the public about businesses or clients regarding product launches, awards and recognitions, upcoming events, new brands, or updates.

With Periscope integrated into it, Twitter users can view broadcasts as a live stream on and brands can engage audiences with interesting visual content. PR practitioners can use Twitter to monitor the online activities of clients, competitors, friends, media or influencers by looking into what they are tweeting about.

When you talk about Twitter, you have to talk about hashtags. When you click on one hashtag on any social network, you will automatically be shown other public social media posts that contain that very same hashtag. This can aid small businesses and their PR greatly as hashtags can expose their content to a wider and a more targeted audience, and help businesses get found.

For creating effective hashtags, write your posts like you usually do, but prefix the ‘#’ sign before a couple of words that you want to use as keywords. Further, when placing a hashtag before a phrase, do not include spaces in between the words as that will break the hyperlink.

Instagram

Instagram is an easy-to-use platform, particularly for brands that like to click photographs and post them to social media platforms. The primary aim of Instagram is to offer interesting accounts, photos and places to users.

PR practitioners can benefit immensely through this ready-made source of influencers. Some of the most successful Instagram campaigns have capitalized on this aspect. Plus, they can get the latest news on other brands through the Search and Explore functions.

Instagram can also be used for displaying client’s products and credentials by using visuals to create awareness, capture the action behind the scenes, promote events, generate interest, and generally get people talking. Features such as double-tapping and tagging people also help increase user engagement.

Content Marketing for Startups

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We live in the digital era where content marketing is becoming increasingly relevant. It is especially helpful for startups in terms of not only attracting customers and visitors, but also gaining their trust on a variety of public platforms.

All brands do content marketing. So, does this mean that they’ll all be successful? This is where the importance of creating high-quality unique content comes into the picture. Your content will be considered valuable and share-worthy only if it offers fresh ideas and relevant perspectives. Whatever you do, be sure to use the right approach to creating content.

Here are a few tips in this regard:

Address your audience

What are your key demographics? Getting this right is important because the tone and the style of your content will have to be directed towards them. Content meant for teens may not resonate with people from other age groups. In case you have diverse audience, you may want to take the middle road and use different platforms to adapt your content.

Focus on precision

Publishing content that is ridden with errors will only bring your brand under the customers’ scanner with lost credibility. Your content represents your brand and its standards. Always be authentic, informative, and/or entertaining. Edit, proofread, and repeat in order to ensure that you always churn out error-free stuff.

Quality matters

Writing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It may seem easy, but that’s the last thing that it is, and not everyone can excel at it. Only a skilled writer can help you make the most of your efforts and deliver quality. Make sure you have experienced and talented writers dishing out qualitative content for you.

White space is good

When it comes to the consumption of online content, people read not only on desktops and laptops, but also on smartphones and tablets. If you give them a wall of text, you will end up putting them off. Give them ample white space to breathe and offer short, digestible content instead, and they will lap it up.

Use images

As mentioned above, nobody likes reading unending blocks of text. But if you can cut the monotony by adding pertinent images, videos, and infographics to get your message across, you will be able to keep the readers interested and engaged.

Be Consistent

Take your time to figure out your brand, message and style. Your content will have to be aligned with these elements so that everything about your brand looks uniform and holistic. This is indicative of your brand’s consistency.

Provide the right amount of content

How much content is the right amount of content depends on your startup and the platform you use. For example, it makes sense to send out monthly newsletters and fortnightly emails, but when comes to posting to Facebook and Twitter, you will need to be more frequent with sharing your content.

But, before you get carried away, it is important to realize that there is a difference between digital PR and effective digital PR. You want to get the latter. Engaging the right PR agency will make all the difference.

Here’s what you need to ask before picking the right digital PR agency:

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A. How they keep abreast of the latest

Asking this question will help you determine if the agency is a progressive one that grows and adapts with time or a traditional one that uses outdated methods to stay on top of the goings-on in your industry. Depending on their answer, you will know whether or not they will actively research and engage influencers and find new ways to add value to your startup.

B. How they measure results

The agency better have a good answer to this question because the way they measure results is vital to its success in terms of retaining clients and arriving at the specific ROI earned.

C. How your team fits into their plans

The answer to this one should help you dig deeper and figure out if you will need to create content, connect your digital PR agency with an expert from the agency’s team, or manage this aspect by yourself. Further, you will also be able to determine how often the agency will need to be available for meetings/interviews.

D. How often will they give you media coverage

One of the main questions to ask your prospective PR agency is this one. Ensure that you get very precise answers to it. The agency may not be able to provide you with a specific figure on the number of times you will be covered by the media in a month. However, they should be able to give you a range. There is absolutely no point in paying a monthly retainer to an agency when it cannot get you monthly coverage.

E. How they handle media relations

When you ask this question, you automatically convey that you are aware of the importance of integrating marketing mediums. This can also lead to a further discussion on how the agency communicates media coverage to you in order to leverage and re-purpose it across your marketing mediums.

F. If they will charge additional fees

Many a time, startup owners complain about being levied additional charges or fees to secure ‘media coverage.’ Remember that if you’re asked to pay a fee for a feature or an interview, that coverage is advertising and not PR. This is exclusive of budget allowances for blogging and reviewing.

G. If they have enough contacts within your industry

It is preferable to go for a PR agency that answers this question in the affirmative. Ask them to see the coverage they have secured in your industry. This does not mean you cannot go for an agency that does not have contacts in your industry. In such a case, ask for case studies in related industries.

H. If they have industry experience

Going for a Digital PR agency that has other clients in your industry could sometimes work well in your favor. However, your competitors can perceive this as a threat. It is, therefore, suggested to find an agency that has experience in industries related to yours as that will prevent a conflict of interest.

In order to succeed, startups need to bring customers closer to their product. This can happen only if they feel an undeniable connection with your product. Digital PR helps bridge the gap in between products and customers.

Conclusion

While creating a great product is the responsibility of a company, getting it noticed and marking its presence in the competitive business scene is the responsibility of a competent PR agency. The above information should be able to establish exactly why startups need to engage the services of such an agency. It’s time to leave the concerns related to acquiring and pleasing customers to PR, while you focus on improving your startups offerings and business strategy.

(Image Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Taral Patel is PR Executive at PRmention, a Digital PR Agency helping businesses grow through their highly-innovative approach to engaging with audiences. Being a certified digital marketer, he understands how modern technology shapes the PR industry. In his free time, he loves to hang out with his friends, and cheers for FC Barcelona. Connect with him on Twitter @connect2taral
  • Klan

    This is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!

  • Great post. I am experiencing a few of these issues too..