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Seven Publicity Rules Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

Jan 7 2014, 5:06am CST | by

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Seven Publicity Rules Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know
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Seven Publicity Rules Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know

What if you invented a revolutionary product that replaced narcotics to alleviate pain, but you fumbled the public relations (PR) effort and your news got lost in the media echo chamber?  
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Startups and entrepreneurs in almost every industry must confront questions like this when deciding to launch or continue a PR campaign.  However, a number of small businesses often don’t fully recognize that the world of PR has been turned on its ear.  Many of the old rules simply don’t apply anymore.  Journalists are leaving the venerable media brands for new social networking platforms and to build their personal brands.  Unfortunately, using PR to grab headlines or market share is no longer just a matter of “getting out a press release.”  It requires deft handling from a knowledgeable team.

For guidance in navigating this new terrain, I turned to Shelly Gordon, Principal of G2 Communications Inc., a healthcare PR firm in Silicon Valley.  These are her top seven publicity rules that every entrepreneur should know:

1. Story is king – facts are servants:  Too many companies think telling the facts about their products will be riveting to the media.  They expect front-page coverage after sending out a product news release, or touting their wares as being “…more effective and efficient” than a competitor’s offering.  Instead, a good PR strategy crafts your company’s story to appeal to journalists and their audiences.  And people tell the story.  As the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns says, “… the facts are in service of the story.”

2. Keep the buzz going:  Companies with cool apps may make a big splash initially, but after early adoption takes root, the buzz dies off.  Then what do you do?  You need different story angles to keep your company fresh in the minds of journalists, and that takes a different strategy than the one used for an initial product launch.  It takes an approach that carries a company into the future with a series of PR programs combined with social media and blogs.  Mine your company for ongoing stories that can be re-packaged and retold in different formats.

3. Old news is no news:  Not long ago, reporters filed one or two stories a day.  Today, journalists may file one story every hour, plus frequent blog posts and tweets.  News has always been a perishable commodity and companies can’t expect their stories to have a long shelf life.  One biotech company learned that lesson the hard way.  While the company had a successful clinical trial and even saw the results published in a medical journal, it started its PR efforts two months later, which was far too late for journalists to be interested.

4. Social media is not PR:  A social media strategy can run in tandem with a PR campaign, but don’t confuse the two.  PR crafts a cohesive message that dovetails with media conversations.  PR creates fresh, high value content and should be syndicated through your social networks, and that, in turn, may gain more fans and followers.  In an ideal world, PR and social media enjoy a synergistic relationship, with each feeding the other.  Pursue both PR and social media outreach. You may want to augment your PR team with a social network manager who is steeped in the nuances of building meaningful followers.

5. Fill the news pipeline:  Have you ever visited the “newsroom” at a company’s website and found that the most recent article was dated two years ago?  Keeping content fresh on the website includes the newsroom.  If it is out of date, people will wonder about the health of the company, and you’ll risk a negative perception.  While no small company is going to have constant breaking news, it is important to keep the media section fresh and up-to-date with announcements, press releases, case studies, and other articles. This gives visitors a chronology of the company. Don’t wait for the next major release of your product.  There are many ways to update your target audiences with new hires, industry awards, market survey results, new partnerships, new customers, etc.

6. More does not equal better Just because a media database lists 200 journalists who cover your industry, that doesn’t mean you should send company news to all of them.  One of the main things journalists rant about when it comes to PR is getting inundated with irrelevant press releases.  Vet each journalist to make sure your news is a match – otherwise, you risk being called out on social media, or permanently removed from his or her pool of quotable sources.

This last rule is probably the most difficult for entrepreneurs to comprehend:

7. Journalists are just not that into you:  Few small business owners realize what life is like for journalists today.  They get hundreds of emails every day from PR representatives that have nothing to do with what they write about.  Additionally, tighter deadlines and greater competition mean they have less time – and patience – for listening to your story.  Just because you are passionate about your product or company, that doesn’t mean you can expect reporters to share that passion.  But consider the effectiveness of making the journalist’s job easier.  Research the topics they have an interest in, feed them fresh stories, and give their readers what they want. Then your company stands a good chance of breaking through the media noise and getting your message heard.

Robert J. Szczerba is the CEO of X Tech Ventures and author of the Forbes column “Rocket Science Meets Brain Surgery.”  Follow him via TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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