Getting PR right is a big part of your startup success story.

The fast rise to success of IrokoTV, the recent rise to twitter stardom of Nigeria rapper, Vic O’s with his diss track and this unlikely US Mayoral candidate who won an election have one thing in common:

It is a PR strategy.

Here are five lessons you should learn about PR for growing your startup.

 Lesson 1: TAKE PR SERIOUSLY FOR YOUR STARTUP.

Take PR seriously because everything rises and falls on perception.

I recommend every startup should dedicate resources to their PR strategy. For example, at IrokoTV the PR effort is led by Jessica: who is responsible for all outward-bound communication. Her strategy has resulted to massive coverage for the startup in every major media including CNN, WSJ, Bloomberg and a host of others.

Even “small requests” to Jason for an expert opinion for a round-up post ended on her table. Why? For the right reasons; because she is the face of the company on every outward-facing communication i.e. PR

JASON of IrokoTV on PR for startups

At the early stage, it is important to delegate resources and time to how you want you startup to be perceived and scale this with time. This will mean having a dedicated media kit (at a minimum, a media kit should include your “about story”, what you do, your team, case studies, customer success stories/projects and testimonials)

Lesson 2: KNOW HOW TO PIGGYBACK ON STORIES TO SHOWCASE YOUR STARTUP.

Piggybacking is when you ride on the wave of a trending story or popular idea to promote your startup. If your brand is active on social media, you can start by following this guideline on how to leverage twitter to connect with your audience by leveraging trending stories or events.

A recent example is how Vic O, a Nigerian rapper, rode to fame on the back of Meek Mill and Drake’s feud by releasing a diss track that shot him to twitter stardom. TechCabal’s Ebola project, a recently released viral game DeclareYourAsset and Ushadidi got massive success and user growth by swiftly responding to national challenges in their respective countries as technological solutions.

You can do this by finding an approach that pitches your startup to a trend or as a prompt response to a recent event.

Lesson 3: SOLVE A MAJOR PROBLEM AND GIVE THE SOLUTION AWAY, FREE

When you are passionate enough to the pain points felt by a lot of your audience, you will discover several opportunities to help them. I must warn you that this does not translate to cash, but it brings a lot of goodwill that you can convert to revenue.

For example, the team at BudgIT released a budget deficit calculator that shows how to analyze Nigeria’s budget in a friendly way. It is actually a useful tool.

budget deficit calculator by BudgIT

In your own case, you can create a free tool; an open-source application or write helpful resources and white paper for your target market. This can be leveraged for news outreach. Keep in mind that a good PR will give you additional perspective to get your startup in the news without sounding “too salesy”.

Opportunities like this include:

  • Doing a research and releasing the result or white paper free.
  • Creating a free open source application like logistics tracking recently released by Konga and WebMall
  • Free CV evaluation for job seekers on job/career websites
  • A forever FREE integration plan (worth N150,000) by VoguePay; a online payment company  for SMEs.

 Lesson 4: BE VOCAL AND BUILD A COMMUNITY AROUND YOUR PRODUCT.

To be vocal is to speak for your industry as a whole. Be the champion that talks about your niche, its challenges and solutions.

It can be as simple as creating a LinkedIn Group or building a dedicated community like American Express did with the creation of Open FORUM; its global community for small business entrepreneurs which are potential users of their services.

As an individual, you can choose to be the first to enumerate the needs, predict the future and direct the course for your industry. If you do this, you will soon become the thought leader in that space and everything will revolve around you as the market leader. For example, Don Jazzy, Sim Shagaya (Konga), Jason (IrokoTV), , Gbenga Sesan (PIN) and Michael Essien (HotelsNG) are masters at the game.

Are you?

Lesson 5: Create mouthwatering giveaways and deals worth talking about.

Deals are amazing. Even Nigeria Telcos make a big buzz out of their promotions.

You too should.

You can organize contest worth talking about that will also grow your customer base. Good examples include DropBox with their dazzling growth numbers of 100k registered users to 4M registered users in just 15 months. That’s a 3900% growth over 15 months!

dropbox referral program for PR

Before you create a giveaway, it is important to ensure that it will attract the kind of audience that will patronize your business. For example when this respected marketer was giving away $57,000 worth of gifts to his instagram follower, he sadly realized that people entered the giveaway only because of the gift and not because of their interest in his service. You want to avoid that.

At the same time, don’t give away blind discounts that will not result to repeat buyers. Recently, a well-funded startup shut down because it could not sustain business by repeatedly offering discount services.

 Lesson 6: BE PROACTIVE WITH TOOLS

This sixth lesson is an extra, but it is powerful enough to deserve your attention. It is about tools.

One of the tools you should use to be on the edge of news and events around your business is Google Alerts. This a free service that enables you to get updates on key terms important to you. There are other budget friendly tools you must keep in your arsenal to enable you to consolidate your PR strategy effectively.

TWO REAL LIFE EXAMPLES OF HOW TO HANDLE PR ONLINE.

The peak of your PR management is to know how to respond to users’ complaints on social media and actively shape the perception of your startup in the marketplace. A real life example happened in 2013 between Arik Air and one of his passengers – Japheth Omojuwa.

It all started when Japheth lost his iPad during one of his inter-city flights onboard the Airline and then things got messy. Instead of turning this to an opportunity, Arik Air later banned him from flying their airline. The story was everywhere back then ; it was a poor decision that resulted to a major PR mess for them on social media.

Unlike Arik Air, Sheraton Hotels had several bad reviews of their service BUT choosed to respond with a better approach that works when you are faced with customer complaints or when you want to boost your startup PR in managing customer complaint. You can download the full case study here and benefit from the lessons.

Handling PR online - case study of sharaton and arikair

When you are proactive with your PR, you have a chance to create a positive perception and can turn an unhappy customer into a happy one (who might also become one of your biggest supporters)

So, how are you planning to use PR to grow your startup?

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