PR Strategies for Startups: What’s Most Important?

By Jessica Santini




You’ve come up with an innovative business model, developed a star-studded team, and now you’re ready to show the world what you’ve got. Whether you’ve created the world’s next SnapChat or Uber, you’ll want to approach Public Relations with a keen eye. We’ve asked some of the industry’s leading publicists to share what you need to know before approaching PR, so you can hit the ground running.


“A startup should have clearly defined their target audience and developed their brand personas. We used a marketing model canvas to determine our Product Description, Goals, Phases, Key Message, Target Audience, Unique Marketable Elements, Audience Influencers and Sales Channels (Free & Paid).  Then we did the research on which agencies can handle our space (tech, event management software and events).  Once we had this in place we started approaching agencies.”

-Cheryl Gentry, Founder and CEO of OnSite Planner


“With limited funds dedicated to PR in any startup company, make your efforts strong and utilize free resources to get your message out.”

-Deitra Redd, Founder of Redd Carpet Group


“Communicate your core competencies, and how you’re different from your competition. Buzzwords are great, but do not tell customers what makes you better than the rest.”

-Armand Cucciniello III, Blue Force Communications


“I am head of an action sports management firm who is also involved in several start ups as an advisor including HobNob and Buckitdream. I used to work at BWR Public Relations as the head of their product placement division so I know a bit about this. I would say the single most important thing to know when approaching PR is that NOTHING IS GUARANTEED. Any agency that makes promises should be vetted out pretty hard. Look at who their other clients are and what placements they have made in the last 3-6 months to ensure they are securing the types of pieces that would be in line with what you are seeking out from hiring an outside agency.”

-Matt Meyerson, RPRT MGMT + Ventures



“Startups are often formed to serve a direct need in a given vertical. As such, it is often the tendency to ‘go negative,’ comparing yourself to others in order to show value. I don’t believe this is the best way to show domain expertise.


In any business space, the industry giants deserve credit for all that they have accomplished. Even though they have not provided a solution to the problem that your company is aiming to rectify, as a startup, you shouldn’t have to speak negatively against a larger company in order to show your value proposition.


At times, this is a balancing act, as it requires the startup to be able to articulate their value in a bubble. Overall, the main difference is this: ‘We are a great company because we do X the best!’ vs the negative skewing, ‘We are a great company because we do X better than our competition.’ Let the consumers figure that out for themselves. They already know what you competitors do, and will be able to make that leap on their own.”

-Catherine Toor, Communications Manager, Join Real


“From budget to photos and more, there is a lot that new startup companies should know about PR, but one thing that I think about a lot when it comes to startup companies is how to be realistic. It is hard when you’ve poured your heart and soul (and probably some good hard cash) into your company, and you think that every press outlet from national to local should be writing about you and your products.  So here are my tips on how to be realistic and not be disappointed:

  • Be realistic about when to launch your PR campaign. Don’t roll anything out to the press until you are completely ready.  
  • Be realistic about what makes good story for the press vs. what is a good story for social media.
  • Be realistic about media coverage. Don’t expect to be in every national magazine and on national TV shows overnight. Even though it can happen overnight (I’ve had clients get national requests on day one of the launch – which goes back to don’t roll anything out to the press until you are completely ready because you never know how fast the press will respond), startups should be prepared to build their media profile in local and regional press and not just expect national coverage immediately.
  • Be realistic about time. Know that hiring a PR firm or doing your own PR takes a lot of time if the job is done right. Are you ready to put that time in?  Also be realistic about the time it takes to build a brand in the press and choose to shoot for a long-term, consistent PR campaign that delivers results and keeps your name in the press.”

-Allison Olmstead, TO Media Co.


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