The three elements of Social PR include media relations, self-initiated content and thought leadership. In the information age, startups, entrepreneurs and professional service companies can leverage digital tools to connect directly with customers, influencers and other stakeholders. Before developing a Social PR plan for your startup, it is important to ask yourself the following five questions:
1. What resources do I have?
Startups often face the challenge of having limited resources for their Social PR efforts. PR can be a great way for startups with limited funds to increase awareness of their company, products and services. Before beginning any PR efforts, consider what story you want to tell. This story should revolve around the people in your company and/or your company’s products and services. Think of larger industry trends and develop a pitch that fits into the broader picture. Some startups choose to do this work themselves, while other startups may want to focus on product development and work with an individual PR pro or boutique PR firm to manage their media relations, self-initiated content and thought leadership efforts.
2. What are my strengths?
Each startup should think about their strengths before beginning a Social PR program. Is your CEO too busy to write blog posts, but loves to get up in front of an audience and talk? Then a thought leadership program around speaking engagements may be the best choice, because it plays to your company’s strengths.
The most effective Social PR programs include a combination of media relations, self-initiated content and thought leadership programs that often work in tandem with one another. For example, Project Gado is a social enterprise that works with archives to digitize and monetize their historical archives. The company has been featured in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal and runs a blog, Depth of Field, to tell the stories behind their photo collections. These media relations and self-initiated content efforts work together and have generated new opportunities including speaking engagements at Open Source conferences and recent partnerships with Getty Images, Sheet Music Plus, and Johns Hopkins.
3. Where does my audience spend time online?
If you are a startup trying to develop thought leadership in your industry, it’s necessary to establish an online presence. Customers search for your products and services both online and offline. Building one on one relationships with your audience happens both online and offline. And thought leadership happens both online and offline.
But social media can be time consuming, so it is important to think about where your audience spends time online, and focus on the channels where you have the greatest chance of connecting with them. For example, take your best customer and research a LinkedIn Group the customer is a member of, and then spend some time learning about the group. Who are the influencers in the group? What kind of content are members most interested in and engaged with in the group? Once you have a better sense of this, become a member of the group yourself and start to actively participate. Find your audience online rather than waiting for your audience to come to you.
While building a following on Tumblr or Instagram may sound impressive, this only makes sense if your company is a photo based business and if that is where your customers are spending time online.
4. What questions keep my customers, influencers, and stakeholders up at night?
Once you know where your customers spend time online, start to track what topics and problems are most important to them. Start a Google Doc and begin to record your observations about your customers. See if you can notice any patterns, and develop three to five content categories that your customers are interested in. Determine where there is overlap with your expertise and take the opportunity to educate your audience. While your startup’s product or service may be a viable option, the goal here is to present all the options and help the customer decide whether there is a fit. And, this information will serve as the bread and butter of your content strategy going forward.
5. What does success look like to me?
Before starting a Social PR plan, define what success looks like for your startup. Your startup’s goals might include building a following on social media, earning media placements, connecting with bloggers in your industry, or leading workshops or breakout sessions at a conference. Be clear about what your goals are so that the tactics in your Social PR plan work towards these goals.
Answering these questions before putting a Social PR plan in action can help you build a campaign that helps you get more exposure and leads.