PR for startups in India have not integrate a brand centric approach of a start-up’s PR, reputation and crisis management. As you google articles and tips on PR, you will find resources and tips for PR, specific to your sector/ start-up or in general but I will focus specifically on PR in context to brand building, an area which we few teams understand. This lays the foundation for PR to be “consistent” with brand and business growing at different stages and how it can leverage opportunities for marketing and consumer engagement (and not just stakeholder management).
Public Relations (PR) has different structures and context in the start-up world so it will be good to be clear on the broad categories.
- Corporate PR is quite different from Start-up PR and sometimes start-up teams don’t differentiate it well. PR messaging, building relationships with media, founder/ CEO positioning, PR strategy, timing, execution are some of the areas that need focus and precision by start-ups to leverage PR.
- Tech focus PR, sector specific or trend specific PR are categories that need the context for strategy/ planning, messaging and distribution which are also managed by PR agencies in India that have domain strength.
- PR strategy and its management evolves as the start-up business grows. It is important to recognise the contextual strategy and relevant resources or skills within the team required to address the PR of its company. PR strategy and execution has to be planned along with brand building and marketing activities.
PR in start-up ecosystem
- PR is not completely comprehended by start-up founders. With growing bombardment of news and information, a start-up only gets highlighted when there is funding news or news that has extremities (bad or good news). Product launch, lateral stories about the company, feature/ quoted in sector news and founder profiling get lost or not effective in PR activities when PR as an approach is not inculcated as a serious practice within the start-up (similar to brand building & management).
- PR is also hired by growth stage start-ups to exclusively handle press, change or crisis management, and managing news than creating assets in PR that are linked to brand building and marketing. This is a critical gap especially in growth stage start-ups.
- PR is much more than publicity if effectively timed and strategised along with brand and marketing activities of the startup. PR’s core strategy and the brief for PR agencies should ideally come from the brand team that sets the brand positioning, brand tone and content assets which can be used by the PR agency.
Brand & PR
Majority start-ups don’t see a co-relation between Brand and PR, hence, the ignorance. PR plays different roles at various stage of growth of a business so let’s focus on the most critical stages:
Brand Building: When start-ups are looking at building their brand with PR, it is important to get your brand strategy and positioning absolutely right. This will ensure your PR messaging is sharp and pitch-worthy because it has to be aligned to brand positioning. You can build PR properties in a few areas depending on the context of your start-up. It can be on founder’s story, product USP, innovation, market, trends or team but make sure it is worth it! The importance of PR aligned to brand is that your pitch needs to be “consistent” although over time the stories will be multiple. The consistency comes from what your brand stands for, not PR news/ stories which also been reiterated by experts.
Brand Management: Once you have built a strong foundation to the brand, your PR news has been consistent and PR presence has been established across channels, then the management of brand should continue to anchor PR messaging. As your business grows, there will be multiple PR activities which need to be coherent with brand and marketing activities. This can be complex but important because PR can help you leverage your marketing traction in multiples if you strategically manage PR. Brand needs to continue to craft the messaging, marketing activities across channels should leverage PR. Crisis and reputation management is a critical need for growth stage companies or startups that needs a more nuanced approach. The brand and leadership team need to understand that reputation management in NOT a one-time exercise or executed only in time of crisis. It has to be managed strategically over a period of time consistently to not just avoid crisis but also build the brand equity by increasing its reputation and credibility among shareholders and in the market.
Tips & learning for start-ups
- Messaging is critical to PR and it needs to be consistent with your brand.
- Understand the currents news and trends in your sector to plug your branded content in a relevant manner. Timing, context and channel are important factors.
- Diversify your PR assets to optimise coverage. Example: Founders/ CEO/ Team news, product innovation, market trends, event, marketing activities.
- When the start-up grows big and you are building internal PR team then PR team needs to work closely with brand team for messaging and marketing team for distribution of content.
- Execution of PR is key; building resources that execute PR coverage such as journalists, PR consultants or agencies is different from PR coverage. The former option is better for long-term activities and brand mileage
Hope this article helps and as a reminder, PR is not just Public Relations of a company as one time exercise but also a process, you will be only build it over a period of time like building a brand. We have been working with PR agencies to exactly craft the brand messaging and marketing it effectively across channels. Reputation management is a strategic long-term process which needs to reflect the brand and business effectively.