Since launching, we have been covered by numerous major publications both in print and online. We were the subject of a Wall Street Journal documentary and have won countless awards. We rank on the first page of Google search results for all relevant search terms.
We did all of this with no PR firm and a negligible marketing budget.
The Wharton School should write a “How-To” piece on how we managed to get the message out and drive inexpensive registrations to our web and mobile products. For reals.
Here’s how we did it, and how you can do it too!
I am a firm believer in not needing PR firms to generate press for your company until you are very, very large. The best person to pitch a small- to medium-sized organization is going to be a member of the executive team. At Speek, that’s me.
I make it a point to know all of the writers and/or editors at any industry, tech or mainstream publication that I may one day want to pitch. The key to forming these relationships is fairly straightforward: reach out when you don’t have something to pitch.
It sounds simple, right? But you would be amazed how many would-be startup promoters seem to forget that tech writers and editors exist until it’s time to hock a new product or launch some new iteration. Writers are constantly bombarded with PR staff and execs pitching them something. There is an unimaginable amount of white noise for journalists.
To actually forge relationships with journalists, put in the time before you need something, and—just as importantly—be memorable: approach them in a unique way, and let your enthusiasm for your startup be contagious (if you are not sufficiently enthusiastic about YOUR OWN STARTUP, then man, PR is the least of your problems.
Here is an example of something I’ve done that has worked well: On Twitter, I have a list of all the journalists I’ve come across who I think I may one day want to pitch to. I make a point of periodically monitoring this list looking for any useful intel about journalists with whom I don’t yet have relationships. I happened to notice that a key journalist at a very relevant publication in our space was sick with a cold. I had my virtual assistant find her work address and send a care package with cold remedies, teas, etc and sign it from “your friends at Speek”. Cheeky? Maybe. Shameless? Arguably. But ballsy? You bet. And because it was such a straight up, no-bullshit approach, it worked. It managed to get us on her radar and now I have a relationship where one did not previously exist. Easy peasy.
Pro tip: The closest thing to a PR firm I would ever consider is PRServe. It’s kind of like the Fight Club of PR. However, the first rule of PRServe is that it doesn’t exist, so don’t tell Chris you heard it from me.
You are actually experiencing this tactic right this very second. (Bam! Mind-blowing, right? You have become part of the story.) I don’t work for NTEN. I think that NTEN’s membership is extremely high-quality and would make great users of Speek’s products. With this in mind, I decided to test the waters by offering my writing services on their blog.
You see most publications, businesses, and organizations have blogs these days. The digital newspapers and magazines that are everywhere ARE blogs. All of the above are perpetually hungry for content: you have to feed the beast. Find the sites whose readership is most relevant to your product, business or organization and offer to contribute articles to their blog.
The steps to take are easy:
- Find a website or publication whose readership seems to be in your targeted sweet spot.
- Write a one-paragraph blurb about an article or articles that you want to write.
- Email the editor, marketing team, contributions editor or any point of contact who you think manages the blog and pitch them on your blurb. Include a one-paragraph bio or a few bullets about why you are awesome as well as the blurb or blurbs you wrote for #2. Keep it short. If you can’t tell who the right person to contact is by reading the blog or guessing their email address, use LinkedIn.
- If they get back to you,write your piece and post it.
- If they don’t, follow up.
- Rinse. Repeat.
Pro tip: Keep SEO in mind. Don’t focus so much on linking your company name as you focus on linking relevant search terms. This has come under a little scrutiny of late but as of the time this post is published it still does work. Just don’t be spammy about it.
Write Your Own Blog
This may be the easiest one to pull off. You simply setup a blog on your company website and start writing. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast.
Blogging is a lot like making martinis: it looks super freaking easy, everyone thinks they can do it— and it is really, really, really easy to not do it well.
Like a good martini, there is an art to blogging. Or maybe more of a science. The first step is to figure out the type of reader you want to attract. For example, at Speek, we want executives and other decision makers from small- to medium-sized organizations. This applies across the board to businesses, nonprofits and associations alike. With this in mind we set out to make our blog a source of content that is useful to these decisions makers whom we need to impress. We maintain a list on our wiki that every employee in the company can submit topic ideas to. As President and COO—and most relevant here as the person also running marketing—I am the final authority on which topics become full articles.
Each week we take one topic and write it into an 800-or-so word article. Typically it’s me who writes it, although we encourage everyone in the company to jump in and write.
Pro tip: Refer to people and companies with large social media followings in your articles and contact them when you post. If they share the article, it will increase traffic to your blog.