How to use PR to build your brand as a startup founder

16th June 2021

In the PR industry we often speak to clients about helping them to build their personal profile or brand. This is something every leader must do, whether you’re the founder of a startup or the CEO of a FTSE 500 company. Whatever your business size, it’s helpful to be able to present positive, intelligent and on-brand messages to the media, to not only build trust in your business but to boost your credibility, too.

Whether that’s becoming the go-to spokesperson for your industry, commenting on a story to position yourself as an expert, or sharing advice or tips that showcase your expertise, there are many ways to build your profile as a startup founder and PR is a powerful tool to help you get the ball rolling.

Know where your expertise and knowledge lie

Before you even begin to offer comments or ideas to journalists, identify the specific areas where your expertise and knowledge lie. 

For example, if you’re an proptech founder, you might know a great deal about homeowner purchasing habits, the biggest traps that see house sales fall through, or the most in-demand towns and cities to live in. If you’re the founder of a fintech, your areas of expertise might involve app security, or savings and investments trends amongst different demographics. Pinpointing the precise areas where you are well-suited to comment – and steering clear of any irrelevant or reputationally risky topics – is the first step to building your personal brand using PR.

Utilise Twitter to gain traction

If you’ve never been featured in a publication before but have some topical, insightful advice to share, then social media is a great place to start scouting out opportunities, connecting with journalists and building your brand. Follow journalists relevant to your sector to spot call-outs for expert comment for stories they’re writing. Connect with other businesses in your space to stay abreast of their updates and take note of how they’re presenting themselves in the news.

Make sure your Twitter bio is up-to-date with your job role, company, email address and a sentence summarising the expertise you have to share, so journalists can see your credentials and contact you if they wish to. It’s always a good idea to keep your LinkedIn up to date, too.

Remember that timing is everything

Timing is crucial when it comes to building your brand and getting your voice heard by the press. If a story breaks that you feel you could provide insightful, expert-level commentary on, then you could try reaching out to key journalists who might be covering the story to see whether they’d like to speak to you. It’s all about getting on the radars of the right journalists with an interesting opinion at the precise moment they’re looking for a scoop, so that you’re the person they choose to speak to for their story.

Being strategic and reacting quickly to breaking news will help you to get in front of the right people at the optimum time. Getting it just right could lead to top tier press coverage that will help to build your voice in the space.

Be mindful of how publications work

For businesses who are new to PR, there’s a common misconception that the media are there to promote your business, and that getting mentioned in a story is a form of ‘free advertising’. This isn’t the case. The media work in the best interest of their readers to provide informative and well-researched stories that offer something new to audiences. Just like a business plays to the demands of its customers, news outlets are there to play to the demands and interests of their readers.

Journalists look to businesses and experts to provide expertise, research, case studies and trend predictions for the pieces they’re writing. In exchange, you’re getting your business or name mentioned in a publication, which can boost SEO, build trust in your brand and give you greater credibility. The right coverage can also increase demand for your services, boosting downloads, website click-throughs or product sales.

But it isn’t easy and you need to ensure what you’re giving a journalist is tailored to their audience. You can’t just tell them what you want them to hear. A PR pitch is very different from a sales or investor pitch. It’s a specialist area – and negative or insensitive interactions with journalists can often do more harm than good. 

If you’re not sure, enlist the help of a professional 

Building relationships with the right journalists, making a strategic comms plan, drafting impactful PR content and keeping a close eye on the ever-changing media landscape is time-consuming work; particularly if you’re hoping to secure national or even international coverage. 

As a founder, there is already so much to oversee. So enlisting the expertise of a professional is often the best way to tackle your PR and build your brand. PR professionals know the media landscape inside out and are experts in protecting business’ public reputations by crafting positive angles, press content and stories that the media will engage with. 

To find the right agency for you and your business, do your research and ask your network whether they’ve ever worked with anyone that they can recommend. Word of mouth and desktop research are often the best ways to find an agency that suits your needs. You also want to make sure any agency you work with has experience in your sector vertical or in the startup sector more widely.

By Kirsty Cantwell, Account Manager at Crest

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