Do startups need PR?

A laser for cutting sausages for the barbecue and a pocket laboratory for detecting bacteria and viruses, what do they have in common? Both ideas are the work of Polish start-ups, both have been covered by the media, although the former definitely more so. How to make a startup more than just a media curiosity and use PR activities to achieve long-term business goals?

The media have their own rules and the topics they cover are often dictated by what their audiences want. Controversial or shocking topics therefore break through more easily than those that require more focus and analysis. In this case, does a start-up dealing with specialist topics have no chance of gaining media exposure and creating an image? By no means.

What is a startup?

Often the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the word startup is a few computer science, robotics or biotechnology students and the innovative device they have come up with to record dreams, talk to the dog or bake bread via a smartphone. A startup can sometimes resemble a crazy invention, but more often it is simply a fledgling business based on a more or less novel idea. Rigid definitions are unlikely to apply here, but most often it is a company created by young people whose business involves the use of new information and communication technologies. How long can a company be called a start-up? There is no simple answer here either. The most common assumption is that a start-up ceases to be a business that emerges from the crawling stage, stands on its own feet and starts to make a profit, functioning like a traditional enterprise. This is best illustrated by the story of Funtronic, which started as a startup and created an interactive Magic Carpet floor in a garage. Today, four years later, it is a thriving company selling its device worldwide.

To whom and for what are startups communicating

Purpose should guide every action. The same applies to communication with the media. After all, its purpose is not just to be present on television or in the pages of newspapers. The media, by definition, are only supposed to be intermediaries. In the case of start-ups, an intermediary between the young company and the target groups it wants to reach. Identifying them is one of the first things you should pay attention to. For one start-up, it will be all about individual customers and acquiring as many leads as possible; for another, it will be about acquiring a generous investor or partner whose funds will enable the company to grow further. However, both need to be reached in some way. Which public relations tools to use for this purpose is another issue to think about once you have identified the groups you want to communicate to.

Tailor-made message

Even the craziest idea can be presented in a serious and matter-of-fact manner, and even the most specialised solution can have threads that interest the layman. When constructing the message to be conveyed through the media, it is important to remember that each group expects something different. A potential investor is interested in hard data, a market assessment of the product, the risk involved, specialists - the technological solutions used, the target users - the usefulness of the start-up in their everyday lives. Similar expectations will be held by the media to which the communication is to be addressed. After all, it is the journalist who should be interested in the issue in the first place.

Intermediaries and allies in communication

For start-ups, which most often operate in the area of new technologies, the most natural communication channel is of course the Internet. It is here that information spreads the fastest, it is here that it is easiest to reach a specific audience. "Mam startup", "INN:Poland", "Antyweb", "Spider's web", "Rozmowy o startupach" - are popular websites, blogs and discussion groups on the web that regularly discuss startup topics. Being present in them is, on the one hand, a good way to appear in the environment, on the other hand, a method of gaining valuable opinions, although often also, not necessarily substantive criticism. Journalists covering startups can also be found in traditional media. As a startup is a fledgling business, it is worthwhile to be present in the economic and financial sections, especially as these are most often read by investors. Journalists covering a particular topic, such as medicine or education, can be interested in the start-up's subject matter, while the relevant regional media can be interested in the business location. A good example of this is Moony Lab - a startup based in Świdnik, which has created an application to develop photos directly from phone memory or social media. After gaining support from the Podlasie Capital Fund, information about Moony Lab was published by both technology-oriented web portals, business columns and regional media from Podlasie and Lublin. Developing photos and creating photo albums via a smartphone is also a good topic for all kinds of lifestyle and advice editorials. All kinds of associations and organisations dealing with the development of this market or technological entrepreneurship, such as the Startup Poland Foundation, will also be a valuable ally for startups.

So do startups need PR? The answer is yes, provided we are not talking about a one-off media firework, but a well-thought-out and properly implemented element of the marketing strategy.


Text author: Michal