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Building a brand from scratch is never easy. But, there are missteps that can definitely make your path more difficult. It’s hard enough to stand out as a startup. But if you make these mistakes, from my perspective, you are sabotaging your brand from day one.
Let me start with a conversation I often hear with startups: are we making a mistake by giving an interview to this smaller media outlet? Shouldn’t we wait for a bigger media outlet to give him this exclusive interview?
On the surface, it sounds rational. If something is in short supply, it is historically more in demand. But that doesn’t apply to the brand, especially in the early stages of startup. And unless you’re Jeff Bezos or Marc Lore, you shouldn’t be offering exclusives as a startup. Your job as a new company is to get your brand everywhere in the shortest time possible.
Related: Is Your Brand PR and Press Ready?
In February, we launched a media campaign for a digital health startup. Its CEO is quite experienced and successfully sold his previous company for over a billion dollars. That’s great from a PR perspective. He has credibility as an entrepreneur, which makes our job easier.
And we were interested in your story from the beginning. Writers and editors for Benefits Pro, HR.com, Forbes, StrictlyVC, Biz Journals, Stat News, Pharmacy Times, Pharma Shots, Popular Science, Fierce Healthcare, and ZDNet all expressed interest or asked to speak with the founder. However, this CEO turned down most of these interviews because he thought the posts were too small. I won’t share our internal conversations, but this approach created self-imposed obstacles.
If you are a new company, you must embrace all opportunities in the media, big and small. You haven’t earned the right to be picky. Your story has not been told as a startup and every opportunity in the media is an opportunity to scale your brand. These news also help your website with SEO.
How smaller posts help build your brand
Let me use StrictlyVC as an example. If you’re a startup trying to raise money from investors or on the radar of VCs, your target audience will read outlets like StrictlyVC. Sure, StrictlyVC has a smaller reach: less than 50,000 readers a month, compared to VentureBeat, which reaches about two million visitors a month. But I guarantee you that writers and editors are reading stories published by your competitors. It’s part of your job to know what the competition is writing. And by talking to smaller publications, like StrictlyVC, you’re effectively promoting larger outlets, like Venturebeat, at the same time.
A common excuse I hear for turning down interviews is that the CEO is too busy. If the CEO is busy, find a new person within the company to talk to the reporter. That’s called delegating.
Again, stick to a real life example to show why. In the case of this new digital health company, the publisher of the Pharmacy Times was intrigued with the story we pushed and asked to speak to the CEO. We arranged the interview, but unfortunately, the CEO missed the interview. A few days later, he said that he didn’t want to do the interview because he thought the post was too small after looking at his website.
Don’t judge a media outlet solely by the design of their website
MSN, Yahoo and others frequently collect stories from smaller news outlets and post them on their home page. And I’m not talking about stories on Google News or Yahoo News. I’m describing stories where Yahoo News places its logo on the story and distributes it to consumers who have a specific interest in this topic. Think of Yahoo Lifestyle or MSN Money. If you look there today, you’ll see a lot of smaller featured post stories.
This syndication approach also applies to television. If your advertiser secures a reserved segment on a television station in St. Louis, don’t assume it’s a waste of time. Local features are placed in affiliate feeds all the time and shared with the rest of the country. As a line producer in Phoenix, I turned to ABC NewsOne for promo ideas. Sometimes the syndicated story was cut down to a 45-second voiceover. But never mind. This is the extra exposure your brand needs at the start.
Related: 3 Secret PR Weapons to Help Build Your Brand
I may be a little teased for saying this, but you’re not as great as you think. I don’t want to sound disrespectful or condescending. I just saw it Brands are not built in a month. Media coverage, along with a brand, is built over time. And if that’s not reason enough, use these smaller outlets as an opportunity to refine your message. The experience of talking to more inexperienced writers at smaller publications will refine your story. These conversations will further prepare you for the day the biggest publications want to interview you.
Related: Top 7 PR Trends Brands Should Be Concerned About Right Now