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12 Ways to get Potent & Economical PR for your Start-Up: Revealed!

Why does your Start-Up need Economical PR?

You are pretty confident in your business idea becoming the next business unicorn. You are firing on all cylinders working tirelessly towards achieving greatness. But you still feel that something is lacking. That something is Brand Promotion. Being a new name in the industry, this is the time when your organisation needs an economical PR strategy that is highly effective in reaching out to your target market. Without customers, your business won’t fly.

There are several benefits of promoting your brand:

  • Establish business credibility
  • Improve SEO rankings
  • Initiate sales
  • Build awareness

Apart from making great products, do you know what brands like Coke, Apple, Nike, Volkswagen have in common? Their excellent marketing and promotion campaigns that blew competitors out of the park time and again.

Of course, being a SME (Small-Medium Enterprise), you lack the budget for mega productions and multi-layered campaigns. But it is possible to get economical PR solutions that pack a punch.  

What comes to mind immediately when you think of an effective method of getting PR for your brand? Maybe getting an Ad published in a popular publication or even getting some TV coverage by a news / lifestyle channel. While they may be effective to a certain extent, they can be expensive and inadequate. Not to worry, because we are here to help. Check some of our tips and tricks that can help you stand out:

  • Become an Industry Expert:

business guru

You might have been preaching the benefits of Yoga & Ayurveda to your friends for months now without effect. But Baba Ramdev has sold Ayurvedic products worth millions, and converted non-believers into Yoga enthusiasts relatively quickly. This is common human behavior. We value expert opinions more.

Try to position yourself as an Expert of your industry. This will give added weightage to your words as an authority on your industry / work.

How do you do this?

  1. Identify topics that you are most aware of, have expertise in and comfortable with.
  2. Make sure that the depth of your knowledge is infallible, and start researching actively on the same to remain updated and relevant.
  3. Know about events related to your industry, and online and offline channels that would value your expert opinion.
  4. Own your content outright, and start publicizing your views on social media platforms like Twitter and Linkedin. You can do the same for offline channels like Print & Television, but keep cost-effectiveness in mind.

biz guru

Once you build credibility, you will see your SEO improving with increased backlinks coming from multiple press outlets sharing your views. Journalists will start associating you as an expert on certain topics, and they would increasingly seek out your opinion on the same. 

  • Start developing Relevant Contacts in the media in advance:media contacts

Before you pitch your startup story to journalists, make sure that you are on good terms with them. First, identify the journalists who are covering your industry, or have shared related posts that have been very popular in the past. Then reach out to all of them in order to develop a relationship.

The key here is to seem genuine. Like, comment and share posts of journalists on social media to build affinity. This will make you visible and known to them, and your pitch won’t seem so cold anymore.

  1. Once you have secured contacts, it is very important to develop and nurture this relationship with the media. Treat each media outlet as an important business.
  2. Popular media outlets like Yourstory, Buzzfeed, Forbes, Entrepreneur etc. would be the best platform to catapult your startup into the limelight.
  3. Albeit difficult, getting to feature in these media outlets would reap great rewards because of the massive readership that they command. They will be silently generating backlinks on a constant basis once you have established a successful relationship.

  • Sign-up for HARO alerts:

haro help a reporter outharo 2016 breaking news

Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a popular media tool that can be successfully used to generate PR.

HARO is a free service that provides a database of sources to journalists for stories and opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage.

  1. Once you register yourself on it, journalists will be sending out requests upto 3 times a day looking for interesting stories to cover.
  2. If you can fulfill the requirements for any request, it will be a cheap and effective way to reach out as sources directly to journalists.
  3. For a small paid subscription fee, you can sift through a database of hundreds of thousands of registered journalists and try and find requests that you feel match up best with your own story.
  4. Other similar tech platforms are: Journorequests & HeyPress. Although passive, it is still a great way to get your content featured on sites like Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal, Mashable etc.
  5. The backlinks generated here would go a long way in establishing your name out in the world.

  • Influencers: 

influencer marketing for effective pr startups

You meet someone at a party, and he/she brags about owning 2 Ferraris and a house in Monte Carlo. You obviously have your doubts, but then a mutual friend comes along and reaffirms the story to be true. Then you find it to be more believable. An Influencer can be viewed as that mutual friend connecting your brand to your consumers.

Identify and track key people operating in your industry/ domain. These people are known as Influencers because they have a large following on social media platforms, and their opinions hold clout among people.  

  1. Their influence over their followers helps drive awareness and action. Consumers would rather listen to a 3rd party than believe in what a brand has to say.
  2. According to a Nielsen report, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even those unknown to them) over brands. 
  3. Develop and nurture a sound and mutually beneficial relationship with relevant Influencers so that they regularly promote your products and services and ensure positive word of mouth.

  • Leveraging the power of High Quality Content: 

content marketing

Imagine you are a smartphone manufacturer and your latest product has 4G technology. Preaching the benefits of your 4G enabled device will be detrimental to your content marketing strategy. Instead, write a high quality blog post educating readers about 4G technology and what it does. This will help establish a level of trust in your readers about your authenticity as an authority on 4G technology.

Having been convinced about 4G and its uses, the readers now wish to buy a 4G enabled handset. Amidst all the brand clutter, guess which brand is going to stand out? The brand whose blog actually explained what 4G technology was. People would regard your brand as experts in the field of 4G technology, which will have a direct proportional effect on sales.

For a small or medium size business owner/startup, fighting off fierce competition from the established players is absolutely imperative. This is where content marketing has a very important role to play. It looks to play on the sub-conscious of readers and establish back of the mind awareness about the brand, rather than shoving brand content blatantly down consumer’s throats. 

Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing valuable and relevant content regularly.  It will attract a clearly defined audience to incite activity that directly affects returns and growth. 

  1. Once you have designed your website and optimized its content, you need to explore other avenues. Blogs, Newsletters, White Papers, Social Media posts, Videos & Infographics etc. are some such avenues.
  2. If you consistently put out good content, traffic will flock to you sooner or later.
  3. It also provides existing and potential clients with a medium to engage on.
  4. The content should always look to add value, so that exposure to your brand increases indirectly.
  5. Always write keeping your target audience in mind to avoid a disconnect between the content and the reader.

The good people at ‘The Minimalist’ design agency in Mumbai have done some stellar work in the past with their visuals and creatives. While hiring a design agency may not be the cheapest option that there is, this serves as one of the best examples of how good quality content can go a long way in generating a buzz in the minds of your consumers. Here are a few examples of their work from their portfolio along with the Facebook response that their work managed to achieve.

Taskbob Campaign:

taskbob thor campaign

taskbob batman campaign

Toppr Campaign:

toppr bollywood campaign 2

toppr bollywood campaign 1

Care24 Campaign

care24 campaign

care24 tropicana campaign

  • Guest Blogs:

    guest blogging

High-Quality content coming from a proclaimed industry expert will help drive readership, and expose both the blog and the brand to a larger viewer base.

  1. With the right kind of posts, your blog can build up a solid following on the backs of experts posting regularly. Guest blogging provides a new perspective via a fresh mouthpiece.
  2. Regular readers would be compelled to lap up the new content coming from a completely unique source, and new visitors would be more likely to view the guest writer’s pedigree and reputation in a positive light, and absorb this new content favorably. 
  3. Of course, your guest bloggers reputation counts for a lot of publicity on social media platforms. Updating your social accounts with news about a guest post from a famous blogger/author guarantees a lot of attention to your page.
  4. SEO can also be factored in here, provided you and the guest author decide to use the right keywords for the blog subject. People looking for information with similar keywords would be re-directed to your site/blog, and might just end up becoming regular readers.

  • E-Mail Marketing:

email marketing 1email marketing 2

E-Mails have a high frequency of usage. We know that people spend a lot of time reading and writing emails everyday. This is one of the reasons why it has huge potential to market your startup at zero / low costs. It is a great method to engage with clients.

The trick to having a successful campaign is to send the Right content to the Right people.

  1. Build a mailer list carefully, finding out people and businesses that are going to be important to your business.
  2. Personalisation of mails can be instrumental in making a strong impression on clients. Addressing clients in your mailer list by their first name will help build a relationship and also increase the probability of your email being actually read.
  3. Have a strong and succinct subject line, such that it compels the reader to read the entire content. The subject line is the make-or-break moment for each e-mail that you send out. It should be short and convey what your mail is about successfully.
  4. Make sure that the design templates for emails sent out have universal compatibility for all devices: i.e. Mobiles, Tablets and PC’s alike.
  5. Also, try and include details like your name along with the company logo, your designation, website URL, founder’s bio if present, who your main competitors are, whether you have funding or not, a short intro about your startup and what it does and whether or not you are live in the market.

  • Cold – Calling: 

cold calling 2016 the cold calling

Considering the fact that you are a startup, it is highly possible that your business is still in the early-stages of establishing a professional network. For that, you need to be prospecting regularly with people and businesses who can help you grow your business. It is a great way by which one can make introductory pitches about themselves and their start-up with hopes of a professional link-up.

Popular ride hailing app UBER is valued at 60 plus billion US $ currently. You would be surprised to know that founder & CEO Travis Kalanick employed Cold Calling in the company’s early days to get a foothold in the US market. He had a success rate of 3 out of 10, which is pretty damn good in our books. Other successful companies that were built leveraging cold calling heavily are Yelp, Seamless & Groupon. .

Try to be polite but firm, be inventive and warm, and make each phone call personally addressing the person on the other side by their 1st name.

  1. It is important to draw up a prospects list carefully based on the industry you find yourself in and other complementary industries and businesses.
  2. Employ an effective sales pitch that is efficient, and be patient in pursuing each client.
  3. A lot of Salespeople credit the success of Cold Calling to following up.
  4. It might take upto 4-5 calls to build credibility and familiarity. Prepare a Standard Operating Procedure of sorts, that might go about like a script. This will help you tackle different types of people with ease.
  5. Make sure you are pitching the right content to the right people, and knowing who the decision maker is also helps in conversions.  

  • Viral Marketing Campaign:

viral marketing for startups

  1. It is a modern marketing technique that has seen great responses over the years with the growth of social media and smartphone users.
  2. It essentially utilizes the whole Social Media ecosystem and their connected users to make content viral, i.e. allow the rapid sharing of audio / visual marketing content to other users and web sites electronically.
  3. Such a campaign has unparalleled reach and effectiveness with no cap on the number of viewers that are exposed to the campaign. 
  4. It is important to keep in mind that it is hard to identify key aspects that would help make a campaign / content Viral, and it is mostly a trial-and-error process. 

It has the power to generate extreme buzz based on word of mouth, and can catapult an otherwise unknown brand into immediate stardom.

Some famous global examples of big brands that have successfully used Viral Marketing campaigns are: Redbull Stratos and Old Spice’s Smell Like A Man campaign. From India, the deodorant brand FOGG’s campaign “FOGG chal raha hai” has taken the Internet and TV by storm. There are jokes and memes being shared on social media that have made their tagline instinctively catchy.

Another campaign that went viral with their brilliant content was Paperboat’s #FloatABoat campaign. The brand got people to make paper boats and share the image on Social Networks. For each image shared, the brand promised to donate Rs. 20 towards underprivileged children’s education.

paperboat campaign floataboat

Paperboat’s #FloatABoat campaign

fogg campaign viral

Fogg’s ‘Kya Chal Raha Hai’ Campaign

als ice bucket challenge

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Everyone remembers the hugely popular ALS ice bucket challenge that brilliantly used Cause Marketing to their advantage. It quickly became a popular fad around the world.

  1. The driving point was: a great social cause and a large number of global celebrities supporting the cause.
  2. It had huge personal involvement too, both with a donation to charity and the very act of pouring water on self was great engagement.
  3. It made people feel good about themselves by supporting a positive cause, and it was also seen as a fun thing to do that created awareness.   

Chotu Chaiwala Campaign

Read about the awesome Chotu Chaiwala campaign that the folks at Zepo planned and executed with favorable viral success. 

  • Digital Marketing:

digital marketing 2016

This is perhaps the most talked about aspect in this day and age. Almost every SME / Start-Up is looking to get maximum coverage for the least amount spent. So what all aspects are covered here?

  1. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  2. SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
  3. PPC (Pay Per Click) Management (Google Adwords, Facebook ads And Bing ads)
  4. Display Network Management (Also known as banner advertising)
  5. Social Media Optimizations (SMO)
  6. Copywriting and Social Marketing
  7. Online Reputation Management (ORM)

It is not completely compulsory for you to break the bank and go for a full service agency that will take care of all of the things stated above.

But, it does make sense to have a strengthened Online presence when it comes to organic search listings on the top search engines. Having non-existent Social Media activity and inactive Social Media accounts will be counter-productive towards the well-being of your business.

This is because customers are increasingly becoming one of the first point of contact for potential customers who come to get an idea about your company.

There are several ways by which you can tweak your Digital Strategy to function on a budget:

  1. Use Analytics. Services like Iconosquare & Simply Measured analyze your social media post metrics like the number of likes, comments, shares etc. This information can be obtained on the basis of location, frequency and subject matter in certain cases. You can find out the efficiency of each individual post, and also find out the average number of likes, shares and comments on your pages. This can be done for Facebook, Twitter & Instagram with great results. This can help you generate and analyze trends that work well, and also understand ones that don’t work that well.
  2. Use more Visuals. According to sources, Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. Make use of Visuals and Infographs to facilitate better retention in the minds of readers. Leverage Instagram ads to improve Click-through rates by the power of good quality photos. Instagram can help convert casual visitors into customers by redirecting them directly to landing pages and generating a need that was otherwise non-existent.
  3. Make a hashtag your own. Hashtag campaigns have been instrumental in making content go viral. They are easy to remember and simple to market. People actually do search for hashtags online contrary to what you might believe. Twitter and Instagram are two great examples of popularizing hashtags to a great extent. Brands are using them to build association, create a brand identity and identify and engage with customers. The possibilities are endless about what can be done, and they are simple to understand and master.

  • Kick-Ass Business Cards & E-Mail signatures:

creative business cards

Creative Business Card of a Divorce Lawyer

cool email signature

E-Mail Signature conveying multiple data points

Every person you connect with, or every cold e-mail that you send out can bring in customers without you even realizing. It can certainly be a point of discussion provided the execution and end result is really unique and creative.

  1. This is perhaps something that gets the least amount of attention, but has immense potential for being effective.
  2. It is a great way to remain fresh in the minds of potential contacts, and convey your creativity with subtlety. Most people find it hard to remember names, and this is actually a great way to be relevant and aid remembrance.
  3. Positive word of mouth is always good for a young company that is looking to turn heads. Digital signatures for emails are extremely effective at conveying multiple sources of information, complete from provide basic data to links of social media accounts and links to blogs and other landing pages of any reference to your organisation.

  • Contests & Giveaways

contests and giveaways freebie

Nothing perks people up more than the possibility of getting free stuff. Rehash the same in the form of a contest, and try and involve as many people as your marketing efforts are good for. Make sure it is a fun, exciting and engaging opportunity for your clients. 

The event will leave a mark on the minds of the participants, & the free Giveaways will maximize your brand recall, and people will associate the brand with a positive experience.

  1. Think long and hard about deciding on the actual giveaways itself. Consumer Electronics, Shopping Cards of popular retailers, or something that consumers would consider as ‘cool’ or valuable enough.
  2. Ensure the presence of personalized company logo’s on the Giveaways to indirectly promote the company.
  3. It is necessary to market the event to squeeze every drop out of this PR opportunity. Create a special landing page for the event, and invest in promoting it on social media for a small amount.
  4. Request ‘User Generated Content’, preferably images because of their practicality and easier comprehension.
  5. Create a buzz for the event, and get people talking. Use a hashtag to promote information related to the event on the Digital space. There is a possibility that the associated hashtag will start trending.

Silent Auction Pop-Up, Mumbai ’15 – A brief case study

Here is an actual example of a low cost and effective PR strategy that our readers can relate to. Working on super-tight budgets, Mumbai based Marketing & PR consultancy Chrome Communications managed to whip up a frenetic PR storm for their event, “The Silent Auction Pop-Up 2015″Its USP was the element of placing custom bids on items that sellers had showcased.

It was a data-driven PR exercise that decided to focus on the target market and their specific interests. It was important to get the news out to the right group of people from the start. It narrowed down the cost of reaching out to people, and also ensured a greater chance of outbound communication succeeding in getting people to visit. From a myriad list of marketing activities, we have highlighted a couple of strategies that were deployed with great success:

  • Use of Visuals & Images – Character creation: 

The aim was to introduce the event, its concept and related details to the target market in such a way that it managed to grab the maximum eyeballs. Images and Visual Characters came into play brilliantly here. The characters in question were unique and fairly engaging, which helped break the clutter and stand out.

  • Connecting with Fashion Influencer’s / Bloggers

The event organizers decided to partner with a couple of popular figures in the Indian fashion scene, and had a sizable Instagram following. The people in question here are Santushi Shetty from The Style Edgea fashion blogger and influencer with 167,000  followers on Instagram & Griva Dalal from The Fashion Trumpetwho has 34,500 followers on Instagram. It was a great move on the part of the organizers, as both the individuals wielded influence over the fashion loving populace of the country. It also created a buzz among the self confessed fashion lovers, who were the main focus group of the event.

style edge instagram post silent auction posts

Live post from the Instagram of The Style Edge

fashion trumpet instagram post silent auction

Live post from the Instagram of Fashion Trumpet

Ultimately, it is up to you to figure out the right mix of activities that work best for your venture. More importantly, be patient because realistic ROI (Return on Investment) might take some time. Any Marketing strategy will materialize over a period of time, because it involves consistency of message exposure to really register itself on the minds of people.

Also, what worked for someone might not work for you. That’s just how the game is. Good PR isn’t about proclaiming your greatness to the entire world, but to a smaller focus group who actually matter. Be smart about your choices by thinking about the big picture. So don’t be afraid to experiment, as you might stumble upon unexpected treasure in your journey of finding PR gold.

You can reach out to the writer on Twitter. Link provided below. 


Reading References:

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – https://www.helpareporter.com/

Journorequests – https://www.journorequests.com/

Hey.Press – https://www.hey.press/

The Minimalist design agency –  http://www.theminimalist.in/

*The original post appeared on the Zepo blog. You can check it out here

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Related Reading: Alok’s PR for Startups – A reference guide

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8 Comments

  1. priyam!!! WHAT A MAGNUM OPUS! how long did it take you to put this article together? that’s a lot of research dude – so kudos for that and thank you for sharing all of it with us!!

    so while you have mentioned how difficult it is to get media coverage… you forgot to mention there are free communities like therodinhoods where startups can get loads of early traction and useful feedback from fellow entrepreneurs! 

    i really liked the taskbob and toppr campaigns. the care24 one was so ouch 🙁

    i love floataboat. it’s super awesome. but i disliked the ALS ice bucket one. i get the virality part etc etc. it’s just that in a country like india where many states face water issues in the summer, it just didn’t go down well with me.

    am a huge fan of the concept of chhotu chaiwala – and loved what zepo has done for all the chhotus! (CC was our chai partner at one of our open houses! so you can add that as a point – PARTNER FOR RELEVANT EVENTS!)

    i love innovative biz cards. i think that’s a million dollar idea. did you read about ashish’s biz card (bookmyshow)…?

    hashtag is a great idea.

    also i think everyone should start making nano vids. it’s getting very popular on fb now coz people are reading less and watching more…

    are social influencers and bloggers an economic option? i hear they charge anything nowadays?! 

    awesome post priyam.

    alok has an interesting ppt on PR for startups. do check it out!

    Download the PPT from Slideshare for your reference via the link below:

  2. Hey Asha! Thank you for your kind words, and i am glad to know that you enjoyed the post. Learning about the nuances of low-budget PR was enlightening. It did take some time to materialize, but we wanted a comprehensive piece for our readers. 

    Again, i would like to thank you for pointing out a couple of omissions that would have been brilliant for this post. We are currently compiling a list of free forums and communities (like Rodinhoods) that encourage the sharing of content and ideas between entrepreneurs and business owners. It shall be edited into the future soon enough. Also, i couldn’t agree more about the relevance of Nano-Vids and their massive potential. Short videos are hugely popular on Social Networking sites like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram, and companies have started to acknowledge this fact.

    It was awesome to find out that Chotu Chaiwala was the official hot beverage partner of a Rodinhoods event. I’m sure they managed to charm a lot of folks with their services. More power to them! I loved the idea of having a ticket as a business card. Some super creative stuff from the Bookmyshow boss, that. 

    The top influencers and bloggers have completely monetized their services because their marketing reach is considerably impactful. But it might make more sense to have a more targeted approach, and decide on your target market. Other influencers and bloggers are catering to very specific industries and product and service categories. They have considerably lower charges for their service portfolio (*sometimes free), and they will provide backlinks that will generate a trickle down effect amongst the people that you actually wanted to reach out to in the first place. One of Zepo’s clients, The Clothing Rental have been regularly interacting with bloggers and influencers who are active in the fashion and lifestyle industry in Mumbai, and it has been rather effective for the brand. 

    I would love to know about some practical, efficient and low-cost PR tips/hacks/tricks that you and the team at Rodinhoods have employed in the past with great success. 

  3. Great Post Man! Loving it. 🙂 

  4. Glad you liked it. Cheers! 

  5. Awesome post … very useful one!

  6. Thank you. Glad you liked the post.

  7. Fantastic… bettered my PPT!

  8. Don’t know about that, but a massive thank you! 😀 

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