In the digital age where every startup strives for visibility, an authentic voice is often the distinguishing factor. This voice is best articulated by those who know the brand inside out - its founders. Delving deep into the importance of founder-led PR, especially in the tech sector, we come across several compelling reasons that amplify its significance.
Leveraging a founder-led PR approach over traditional methods
"Leveraging a founder-led PR approach over traditional methods has been instrumental in our growth story. Here are some insights based on the four questions provided:
Advantages of Founder-led PR--Founder-led PR comes with the genuine passion and story of the business, making the narrative more engaging and authentic. One of the main advantages in my case is the ability to get more aggressive in the PR efforts with a direct source of information, which often results in more accurate and impactful coverage.
Real-world Examples of Successful Founder-led PR Initiatives--A unique campaign we ran was the dog bone campaign, where we sent dog bones to journalists to announce our launch into their market. This not only created a memorable introduction but also sparked engaging conversations, leading to more organic and resonating press coverage.
Challenges Founders Face in PR Responsibilities--Taking on PR responsibilities is akin to having another full-time job. It's demanding and takes away from other founder-led initiatives. Balancing the PR tasks with other crucial aspects of business management can be a tightrope walk, and requires a well-thought-out strategy to ensure neither suffers.
Tips for Founders Considering a Hands-on Approach to PR--Being at the helm of PR allows for a creative approach tailored to your brand's narrative. You can be as creative as possible and go at your own pace, ensuring the messaging aligns perfectly with your brand’s ethos. It's essential to study the media landscape, understand what makes a good story, and be prepared for a long-term, consistent effort. Remember, building good media relations is a marathon, not a sprint. It's equally important to be ready to leverage any available opportunities to tell your story and share your business’s impact and values."
Implementing a hands-on PR approach can be a game-changer, but it's crucial to weigh the effort against the potential impact to ensure it aligns with your broader business goals and capabilities.
Shanna Morgan, PR Strategist from NightSky PR shared,
"Founder-led PR is more “human.” Audiences can get a feel and sense of the person behind the startup brand, which fosters stronger connections, and sales, over time. I can think of very few brands that I feel connected to, but I can name plenty of founders, actually people, that I follow on a more personal level. People that I would trust to buy from. That’s what founder-led PR can do.
I think about Nathan Barry, founder of ConvertKit. He doesn’t merely put out press releases. He recently launched a podcast called Billion Dollar Creator with Rachel Rodgers, but he has consistently built his audience via his successful newsletter and leveraging others’ podcasts. He’s taking a thought-leader approach to the very new creator industry and it’s paying off.
Sometimes, founders do not consider themselves to be “out front” people. They love the work itself and have no desire to be the face or voice of the startup. This can be a big challenge for many, and while I can understand and respect it, the truth is that it makes connecting with audiences more difficult and time-consuming. People connect to people. It’s best for founders to remember this.
My tip is simple - work on your communication skills. Take a public speaking course or hire a coach. A hands-on approach means you’re going to be engaging with media, podcast hosts, etc., so you need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively. Your industry knowledge might be a 10, but if your communication skills are a 2, you won’t be heard. It takes practice, but it’s worth it."
Emily Reynolds Bergh, Founder led PR firm owner R Public Relations mentioned,
"With a founder led PR initiative you have the person with the most and biggest investment on your campaign, it is something that you should look for, as often larger agencies have interns or paid interns starting campaigns that have a lower budget which often start-ups do. if you are a founder and ding your own outreach another option is to seek a firm to do some consisting for you, that will help your initiatives.
We have a lot of clients that have started as fonder led and reached some great PR with their initial campaigns and then sought us out to pick up the slack, Pink Lily and co Founder, Chris Gerbig and his wife Co founder Tori Gerbig started with a lot of social media founder led PR and Pink Lily has grown to the capacity it has with that at the forefront, we work with Chris to support his real estate and entreprepreuer brand which needed a third party! Another example is Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker, he led his PR and often still does we support enhancing the founder message especially as more brands have grown under Carey's umbrellas.
PR is literally a full time job, try to do as much as you can but also know when you can do harm to your brand if you are not answering emails or sending the proper information. seek help with it when you need it- also some people are just naturally not communicators for their businesses. if that is you- don't even start with your own PR- I can tell you you need to be someone who texts a lot, answers emails frequently and has a finger on the pulse..
Get organized seek about 10-15 outlets. you really want to be featured in and study them, get to know their voice and audience and grow relationships with the writers and editors first before. you try selling your story."
"In the case of small startups or in the first stages of the crowdfunding process founder led-PR is a part of the process. Investors are very sensitive to the reputation of the company and the founder is the first person who is making sales and presenting pitch decks for them. In small businesses, founders know more about the target audience and business processing than PR firms, which is why if they have some efficient tools such as CRMs or information agency packages there is no need for PR firm service. But when a business is scaling and developing PR firms will help make the work of CEOs much more efficient.
Vitalik Buterin (Ethereum Foundation), Sergei Sergienko (Chrono.Tech), Sasha Ivanov (Waves Platform), and Elon Musk (Space X, X, Neuralink) - all these examples of brand people who are developing their products based on their publicity. If we are talking about such businesses as beauty salons or restaurants we usually make some consultancies not a retainer process work due to the specific of the small businesses. It is much more efficient to edit PR costs using platforms or AI than to hire a person or a PR firm.
Micromanagement is the first problem with which every CEO is beaten during PR work. In any case, PR consists of the scope of processes and does not always founders choose the right position on the market. The distance is a part of respect to the person. It helps to raise the level of the person. In case of work using some assistance CEO or founder could invest their time into sales or business processing because the product is the main thing, and the Forbes column has no clue if your business is not efficient for your core audience. It is hard to beat negative comments without a good SERM or Growth marketing specialist.
Use CRMs, hire a mentor or a consultant in PR, work on your language, style and kinetic image, and have a partner who will be good in sales or marketing. Any victory is a team play."
"What reporter or editor covering startups would tell you they’d rather deal with a go-between than speak directly to the founder? Why extend the process of getting coverage by making it a two- or three-step process when the reporter would much rather connect right to the ultimate source (that is, the brains of the startup)? But, warning: that founder better be ready.
The best example in my career was Scott Olson, the developer of Rollerblades. He had an uncanny ability to understand the media — and, specifically, consumer wants, needs, and trends — and would pick up the phone and pitch reporters on a moment’s notice. He did not need any PR person! He scored more publicity than any small upstart I have ever seen — and he did it beyond Rollerblades, to three more consumer-focused startups. (I was a consultant and investor in his second.) He even succeeded on his own into talking his way onto Shark Tank with his third startup. None achieved the remarkable success of Rollerblades, but gaining a nice monetary exit from that one didn’t slow him down from drawing media attention for his other startups — far beyond what most founders would ever hope to accomplish. And he launched all these startups without any real VC backing, just with angel investors and, later, some of his own funds.
The biggest challenge is in understanding the media and what they’re looking for — that is, putting oneself in their shoes. Secondarily, I’d say really understanding *why* to do PR in the first place. There must be a business reason. In my experience of 20+ years doing PR for startups, I’d say 75% or more of the founders I have counseled and advised need help here. (God bless the savvy 25%!) Before attempting to do their own media reachout, the 75% must be educated. Some are humble enough to admit that need help, some aren’t. But most can be trained to be their startup’s own, best spokesperson. Obviously, as the startup grows, they naturally will have to give up the spokesperson role, at least in part."
She offers some valuable tips:
"1) Get help from someone who’s worked with many early-stage startups that achieved PR success.
2) Do not hire a PR agency. They generally want a 12-month contract and will drain your marketing budget. You need to be nimble and stay nimble.
3) Practice being extremely brief with the “talking points” in your messaging for the media. You do not get 10-20 slides to pitch to them as you do with investors!
4) Make a list of a handful of your best media targets and learn everything you can about them before you ever even think about making an attempt to pitch them.
5) Work extra hard to craft email subject lines that actually get your emails opened. If you get replies to even 5-10% of them, consider yourself extremely lucky."
Jenny Beres, President and co-founder of Pink Shark PR, an LA-based PR firm that focuses on startups, tech companies, fintech companies, and boosting CEO profiles had some really insightful thoughts and tips:
"The number one way to get attention for a new brand or startup is to lead with the people behind the company. Consumers, investors, and potential partners don't want to just know about the amazing things your company is potentially going to do, they want to know who the person is that they're investing in. By leading with you – the founder – you're painting a picture and narrative for your brand that includes the passionate person who developed the idea.
The number one challenge founders face when taking on PR responsibilities is time. There are never enough hours in a day and often founders put PR to the back burner as the daily tasks build up. But the truth is if you don't make the time to be present in the media, and don't make the time to network with journalists, the media won't be there for you when you have an announcement. We tell our founder partners that they need to start building relationships with the media from day one. You don't want to just be in touch with journalists and outlets when you have something exciting to share, you want to be on the top of their minds for anything that has to do with your industry. In order to do that, you need to build those relationships early and often. So make the time even if it seems impossible. Consistency is the compound interest you can control.
The most powerful sales and PR lesson I tell founders is that your product is never the story and your product (or service) is never the offer. You are the story of your business and you are the thing that can move your business into a multi-million dollar earner."
Humanising Brands through Founder-Led PR
In the words of Kushal Desai, Founder of Softwarist,
"Founder-led PR is crucial for startups in technology companies because it humanizes the brand and establishes a genuine connection with the audience."
The tech landscape can often feel cold, dominated by codes, algorithms, and intricate jargons. However, when a founder steps into the PR realm, they bring warmth and a genuine connection, infusing life into the brand's narrative.
"In a landscape dominated by algorithms and virtual interactions, founder-led PR brings back the human element, making the startup not just another tech entity, but a story worth following and supporting."
Enhancing Marketing Strategy with Founder PR
Every tech startup thrives on scaling and innovation. Yet, scaling marketing strategies can be a daunting task.
Nathan Brunner, CEO of Salarship, shares his firsthand experience,
"As the founder of a job board, we tried a few PR campaigns with incredible results. The only limiting factors are the quality of your PR and your distribution network."
Brunner further adds that their successful campaigns led to mentions on reputable platforms like Yahoo Finance and Illinois Insights, thereby boosting their brand awareness.
Authenticity Amplified by Founder-Led PR
A startup's narrative is its soul. And who better to tell that story than the founder themselves?
Bruno Gavino, Founder and CEO of CodeDesign, emphasises the power of authenticity in founder-led PR.
"When founders take an active role in shaping and sharing their company's narrative, it adds a layer of authenticity that is often difficult to achieve through traditional PR strategies."
This organic touch resonates deeply with the audience, creating a trustworthy bond that traditional PR often misses.
Balancing Tech-Speak and Relatability
Diving into the tech world's intricacies can be overwhelming, especially for non-tech audiences.
Matias Rodsevich, Founder of PRHive, sheds light on this balance,
"In the bustling tech world, startups often grapple with intricate jargon that may sound alien to many. Founders, being at the heart of their venture, have a knack for breaking down this complexity."
Rodsevich rightly points out that the founder's voice bridges the gap between intricate tech terms and layman understanding, ensuring the brand message is clear, timely, and relatable.
Lucas Wyland, Founder of Steambase, delves into the nuances of founder-led PR, stating,
"My insights on founder-led PR in startup enterprises could prove helpful as I am a solopreneur."
"Greater Impact: Founders add a personal touch, resulting in a campaign with greater reach.
Better Appeal: In the social media age, founders can touch an emotional chord better than hired professionals.
Cost-effective: Self-led PR campaigns can save marketing costs for startups on a tight budget."
"Lego's Campaign: The globally recognized "Rebuild the World Campaign" was founder-led, aggregating customer creations into a 3D globe on their website.
Kamua's Launch: The AI-powered video editing platform garnered over 400 new users overnight through a founder-led PR campaign."
"Getting Top-tier Coverage: Achieving top-tier media coverage can be challenging without professional PR strategies.
Managing Client Expectations: Keeping track of responses can be overwhelming.
Measuring ROI: Without PR expertise, gauging ROI can be daunting."
"Set Clear Goals: Know the objectives of the PR campaign and set success metrics.
Leverage Owned and Paid Media: Use available resources like social media, blogs, and explore paid media options for wider exposure.
Engage in Thought Leadership: Speak out and build credibility within the industry to foster trust."
Founder-led PR isn't just a buzzword; it's the heartbeat of a tech startup's communication strategy. As these thought leaders have pointed out, the founders’ involvement in PR strategies brings authenticity, human touch, strategic enhancement, and a balance between tech and relatability, ensuring startups not only gain visibility but also credibility in an ever-competitive tech landscape.
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