You just got the green light to create a public relations program for your startup. There's a lot to do, and you don't have enough time or budget to do it all. Where should you begin?
For some startups doing business in "emerging technologies" sectors—such as Internet of things, blockchain, augmented reality, or virtual reality—creating your PR, content marketing, and social media programs can be challenging.
If you don't have the ability to hire expert PR counsel (either an agency or a consultant), here are some seven basic steps to get acquainted with the influencers who follow your technology space.
1. Build your press and analyst list
Start from scratch: Search Google news with keywords pertaining to your company's technology and your competitors. Every time you read an article that is interesting to your company, jot down the name of journalist who wrote it, the publication that published it, and the names of any research analysts quoted in the article. (Here's a free Google Sheets template to help you keep track of what you find.)
Jumpstart if you need it (and can afford it): Consider software tools from Cision, Iris PR, MuckRack, and TechNews. These tools, available at a range of prices, can help you create a basic list of journalists and analysts; you can refine it as you get more knowledgeable about who covers your industry.
2. Build your influencer list on Twitter
Start from scratch: Create a list of influences within Twitter. When you read a tweet that is relevant to your company, pop the poster's Twitter feed into your influencer list.
Jumpstart if you need it (tactic 1): Check out competitors' Twitter feeds. Look for influencers your competitors are following and retweeting. Add appropriate feeds to your influencer list.
Jumpstart if you need it (tactic 2): Did you know you can subscribe to someone else's Twitter lists? See whether any of the influencers have their own lists, and subscribe to those as a quick way to get to relevant info.
3. Take advantage of Twitter platform tools
Free and low-cost tools, such as Hootsuiteand Buffer, help you manage your social media presence and keep it consistent. For example, you can batch and upload content for the upcoming week, and check in periodically with fresh news you want to share.
4. Spend 10-15 minutes a day with a targeted Twitter feed
Interact with the accounts in your Twitter lists and searches. After reading feeds carefully for a week or two, start to "like," retweet, or comment on what your influencers are sharing.
5. Identify and follow the conferences, tradeshows, and awards in your emerging tech space
If you already know about the events important in your market, then visit their websites to gather the particulars, such as dates, locations, and the organizer. (Track the events in this free Google Sheets template.)
Make a note of the Twitter accounts and conference hashtags to use in future social media posts.
Track the awards that your company is interested in applying for. Pay attention to the different guidelines. Some require payment, and others want to know company revenues.
6. Tell your story at conferences and to awards committees
Start from scratch: Look at the previous agendas of your target conferences to see the types of topics they typically accept, and model your speaking proposals on those previous topics. The submission/acceptance process can take up to nine months, so give yourself plenty of time to submit speaking proposals for a key conference. Follow the directions carefully.
Jumpstart if you need it (and can afford it): Consider a subscription to ITDatabase event tools.
Jumpstart if you need it (and can afford it): If your spokespersons need to build a portfolio of speaking engagements, or you want to get in front of buyers and influencers fast, consider events that are "pay to play." Some conference offer speaking slots to companies that buy sponsorships or purchase exhibit space. Some charge a fee just for speaking.
7. Place contributed articles on your emerging technology
Remember those journalists you tracked back in Step 1? Go back to their publication websites and find out whether the editors accept contributed blog posts or longer articles from experts.
Read the contributor or author guidelines, if the publication makes them available.
Review the editorial calendar for the publication's planned coverage. See whether there is a topic related to what you want to write about. If you find a fit, you can propose an article for that topic.
Turn your speaking proposals into article abstracts. Just rewrite them using the author guidelines you found earlier.
Each publication will have its own rules for submitting articles. But, generally, you email your article idea along with a short note explaining why readers would be interested in your topic. If you don't hear back from the publication after a few weeks (and at least one follow-up attempt), move on to another publication.
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Starting up your PR, social media and content marketing program doesn't have to be an overwhelming job. Doing the initial legwork outlined in this article can set you up for success in the future. Even if you do only one of the tactics mentioned above, you will be better prepared, whether you handle the programs yourself internally or hire outside resources such as an agency or consultant to provide expert PR counsel.
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