When talking to startup founders about launch PR, I’m frequently presented with similar concerns and queries – I thought it would make sense to lay down my thoughts here on recommended dos and don’ts.

Key takeaways

  • Launching your business to press and core stakeholders needn’t be an expensive undertaking, if the correct planning is undertaken
  • An increasingly crowded and competitive landscape means that now more than ever, launch PR needs to be strategic and original
  • Whilst fun and celebratory, a launch party is sometimes not the most productive use of your early PR budget
  • Any launch event that you do plan should be carefully managed to ensure it works hard to communicate early brand messaging
  • You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression – early PR faux pas are likely to live online eternally

Don’t spend on PR agency support right away 

I was recently speaking to a founder who wanted to hire a PR agency to help with the launch press of his startup. He was keen to impress key media contacts as well as his network by employing a prestigious agency. Fortunately, he was well connected having worked in marketing for years and his good friend at a well known PR agency had agreed to give him mates rates. Unfortunately, we don’t all have these connections and I would generally offer words of caution about engaging big name agencies in the early days of your startup. PR agency support, particularly from renowned agency brands, is often expensive and can be overkill if your venture is nascent and you’re not planning a large scale launch campaign.

Instead, think about what slice of the early PR & communications work you can take on yourself – could you write the press release and compile a top tier media list featuring your core writers? If you don’t feel confident here or if time is tight, hiring a freelance PR by the day is usually a more cost effective option.

If you’re taking on anyone externally to support your launch, be sure to set KPIs (key project indicators) before any work begins so you both know what’s expected and what a successful outcome will look like.

Do things differently & get creative

Getting in front of press and cutting through the noise is hard, particularly in today’s competitive landscape. For this reason, it’s imperative to be original and to consider how you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Some great examples of creative thinking from the land of launch PR past;

When Betfair launched, founders Andrew Black and Ed Wray kicked off a campaign provocatively called “death of the bookie” and walked through the City’s Square Mile carrying a coffin. A punchy move, very much in line with the brand’s irreverent tone of voice which landed them on the front page of the Sunday Times Business section.

When notonthehighstreet.com launched, founders Holly Tucker & Sophie Cornish sent gifts personalised with the names of journalist’s loved ones to them – immediately demonstrating the USP of their business and forming an immediate emotional connection. Simple and smart!

Do think carefully about pros & cons of a launch event

A launch event is a fantastic undertaking if you simply want to celebrate your new business with friends and contacts, however it is not always a sure fire way to grab press attention and column inches.

Events are typically expensive, particularly those held in Central London, which is generally the most convenient location for national press. At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, it’s therefore worth thinking about whether an event is the best use of your budget and whether it’s an effective way to deliver your key message.

Press tend to be invited to a lot of events, so you’ll generally have to go above and beyond to create a compelling event which they’ll want to attend. So often businesses spend thousands on creating an upscale launch event which results in little or no coverage.

I would advise that rather than pushing money into a hefty bar tab, you spend time creating a compelling introductory press and social campaign and consider the most effective way to begin communication with press. A killer, personalised introductory press release, social campaigns and ‘teaser’ activity all help to get key journalists excited and intrigued about a new product or service.

Don’t paint yourself into a corner

As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, this is especially true when thinking about launching a business.

In the run up to your launch, think carefully about what you want to say externally about your brand and the mission you’re on – anything too ‘restrictive’ could make ‘pivoting’ your offering down the line tricky.

It’s worth noting that in the age of the internet, articles and press releases tend to live forever – don’t release any material which you wouldn’t be proud to have your name and face stamped on in years to come.

Final word

The launch PR for your business is an exciting prospect and with the right planning and strategic thinking,  PR can work hard as a cost effective communications channel which will help you speak to and engage your first audiences.


About the Author

This article was written by Nic Forster of the Path Forward. The Path Forward was developed by Forward Partners, a VC platform that invests in the best ideas and brilliant people. Forward Partners devised The Path Forward to help their founders validate their ideas, build a product, achieve traction, hire a team and raise follow on funding all in the space of 12 months. The Path Forward is a fantastic startup framework for you to utilise as an early stage founder or operator. The framework clearly defines startup creation as being comprised of three steps. The first step of this framework involves understanding customer’s needs.Nic is Head of PR & communications at Forward Partners. Over the course of a 10 year career in communications, he has working with global brands including Orange, Warner Bros., BBC, and amazon.co.uk.

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