Alicia is a Senior Account Executive at Oxygen USA. She regularly partners with startups (often foreign based) working with a PR agency for the first time. “Building a brand voice", “how to approach journalists” etc. are bases she covers with them before reaching out to contact influencers. Below you’ll find some of her top 4 pain point when working with PR newbies.
1 - You Don’t Know What PR Is
Most of my new clients have no idea what PR actually is.
If they’ve worked in the US, they are likely aware that PR is a powerful visibility tool. Getting the right people talking positively about their product is necessary, or they’ll have a difficult time successfully launching the brand.
If this is their first time doing business here, startups usually turn to PR after listening to stories of friends who successfully got great coverage for their latest crowdfunding campaign.
But after a few initial questions, I can often guess their idea of a successful PR campaign doesn’t go further than “getting a cool feature in that publication all my friends like to read.”
This is not a successful PR strategy.
2 - You Have No PR Strategy
In order to succeed in the PR field, (and especially in the US) you’ll need a clear understanding of what PR can and cannot realistically achieve:
PR is not advertising. You won’t be able to control what a journalist’s article contains in the same way you would manipulate ad placement.
PR is not asking your journalist friends for a feature out of the goodness of their hearts. Journalists have to sell a story to their editor-in-chief and they'll get a green light only if the article has a chance to resonate with the magazine’s specific editorial line.
PR is not limited to the New York Times, TechCrunch, and Women’s Wear Daily.
For all the reasons I’ve listed, having a formal PR strategy is much more than merely saying, “I want more visibility in the press.”
It’s about defining the specific priorities you want your PR campaign to achieve. Is your top priority building a sustainable image? Are there sales objectives involved? Are you focused on testing the appeal of your message to a new audience?
You can only begin to choose media targets, after you’ve clearly set specific PR goals:
- If you’re striving to build a particular image that appeals to readers of a large publication, be mindful that large placement in a key publication could take 2 years to come to fruition.
- If you’re seeking sales, it may be that partnering with niche blogs is the best chance. Tapping into a new kind of audience will require features in material they regularly read. That way if you land an article, people reading it will be actually tempted to buy your product.
A top-quality PR agency or PR professional will be able to help you build the strategy that best fits your unique product, service, or organizational goal.
3 - The Messaging Doesn’t Fit Your Desired Audience(s)
If you are a startup CEO, I’m sure you don’t talk about your company in the same way to your friends, a potential investor, or your grandmother, and neither should you!
It’s the same in the world of PR. In order to be efficient, you need to emphasize different things depending on your audience (techy journalist vs. a lifestyle influencer).
You also need solid working knowledge of your desired media targets. What subjects interest them? What kind of angle might spark their interest?
Nothing's more boring than messaging that tries to please everybody at once and ends up seducing no one.
4 - Your Content Screams “Foreign!” (and not in a good way)
Don’t trust just anyone who says they can author killer text presenting your product, startup, or idea.
Writing a blog or social media post, with the potential to go viral is hard, especially if you’re not writing in your native language. I know this first hand! Being a native French-speaker and striving to master the English language in all contexts (studies, daily life abroad, work life) has been a significant challenge.
And no, “being translated into English” won't be enough.
I know this is a lesson my foreign clients have a hard time grasping but getting U.S. media attention will require marketing and PR materials that have been proofread by LOCAL experts - people living in the country you wish to target, that are fully aware of the local journalists do’s and don’t’s.
Especially in the case of tech, gadget, and lifestyle products, engaging a native, culturally-immersed staff, able to critically evaluate your work is vital to ensure that your product will resonate with your U.S. based audience.
Did you get all of that?
Stay tuned - more advice coming your way soon!
See you très soon.