10 PR mistakes every startup makes (and how to avoid them)

Leading a startup is not easy. With a limited budget and few resources, early-stage startups have to position their brand in the best way possible and make themselves heard above all the noise.

When done right, PR will engage and build trust for your brand. But to do, so it’s important to not fall into rookie mistakes – either you could be ignored by media outlets, or worse, damage the reputation of your brand. We want your startup brand to be successful, so we’ve come up with a list of 10 common PR mistakes that every startup makes and how to avoid them. 

(P.S. If you’re looking for some specific advice on how to get noticed by EU-Startups, have a listen to our recent podcast).

  1. No PR strategy

Sounds fair, right? Some startups just jump ahead without a strategy and think that things will magically fall into place. It doesn’t work like that. If you’re growing fast, the best thing is to hire a PR expert to help develop an effective strategic plan. If you can’t hire someone full time, think about working with an external PR agency on a consultancy basis. 

2. Not knowing your audience

This is a pretty big mistake because if you don’t know your audience, how do you plan on communicating with them, or reaching them? This is one of the most important steps of building up a marketing strategy and PR plan. Knowing your audience helps you tailor your message and where to spread it out. 

3. Not having anything to announce

One of the most common PR mistakes committed by startups is that they try to get media coverage with no new story to announce. It’s highly unlikely that a magazine or newspaper will feature you just for existing – these kinds of features usually go to bigger and fast-growing scaleups, or successful serial entrepreneurs. To get noticed, you need to be announcing something worth talking about: a brilliant new partnership with a well-known corporate, a round of funding, a launch in a new global market, etc. Usually internal announcements just don’t cut it (e.g. a new person has joined your team, a new additional feature was just developed).

4. Not considering timing

Creating and putting out a new product or service takes time and you don’t want to see it all turn to ashes because of bad timing. It’s important to know what’s happening every day, but even more when you plan on putting out a new feature or product. Try to launch your news on a date that doesn’t coincide with any big event, conference or holiday which could potentially overshadow your moment of glory. 

5. Not being clear enough on email requests

Take into account that members of the media receive hundreds of PR requests every day and they probably don’t go through all of them. And even if they do, if they are not interested two sentences in, chances are your email will go straight in the inbox bin. 

Start with a good subject line – something catchy and worth clicking. Once they’re in, address the person by name and publication, so they know you’re targeting them specifically. Then, you get about two extra sentences to further catch their attention with some statistics, facts and jazzy language. 

6. Not attaching PR/visual materials

Editors don’t have time to come back to you for a team photo, video or to ask for the actual press release. Decisions are often made fast, so if you’ve not attached it to the email, they probably will move on to cover a story that’s better prepared. A hot tip is to send the PR in editable Word format or GDoc (not a PDF – they’ve have to convert that to edit), and to send various sizes of image, that fit the publication you’re targeting.

7. Targeting only top global media 

PR is not about going big, or going home. You can and should target big media outlets, but they aren’t the only doors you should knock on. Sometimes it’s more effective to reach out to smaller local or sector-specific publications, the ones that are more likely to be read by your audience. This could bring positive results long-term, and not just high traffic for a couple of days. 

8. Trying too hard

Related to the section above, if your requests don’t get an answer after some days or weeks, chances are they’re not interested and they will probably continue to not be even after 3 follow-up emails.  In many cases, the magazine just doesn’t have the man/woman-power to reply to every request. If your email gets unnoticed by most of the media you reached out to, we recommend to revise the copy on your request email and try again in the near future.

9. Sending an old story

Did your story already get picked up by another similar publication? Then likely their competitor won’t run it. Don’t forget that news outlets often want to be the first to published a new story, and take pride in providing fresh stories. If you mention in your email the same announcement has already been picked up by similar publications, this could be one reason that you’re not reaching that outlet.

10. Making it difficult to find your contact information

This is one of those things that might get some rolling eyes, but it happens. News outlets, blog writers and journalists might come to your website. If they find your story and mission interesting they’d want to contact you. Make sure that you have a contact email on your website, a link to social media (that works!) or a telephone number. With mostly everything being done online these days, having your contact information on the About Us page, or even in the footer/header of your company’s website is essential.

We hope this article has helped clear some doubts on what to do and not to do when it comes to PR and has also opened a door to start to create a strategy or think about doing so in the near future.