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Design a killer PR strategy with Maddyness, Trainline & StoriesOut
June 7, 2019
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Whether you are a startup or a scaleup, Press Relations will always be of paramount importance in your entrepreneurial adventure. Articles, interviews, forums, presence at events… How do you choose between these options, how do you engage with the communication world when you start? To answer these difficult questions, another edition of Partech Shaker's Talks brought together a press agency, a tech journalist and a tech scale-up to explain how you can design your very own killer PR strategy and answer questions all things press.
The panel comprised Anne de Forsan, Founder and CEO of StoriesOut, Delphine Margot, PR and Public Affairs Manager at Trainline and Géraldine Russell, Journalist at Maddyness. It was chaired by Isabelle Tresson, Comms and Marketing Coordinator at Partech, who also offered her perspective from within the VC industry. Here are some highlights:
IT: What do you think are some of the best practices and key points that immediately spring to mind when it comes to press communication?
GR: When it comes to any communication with the press, make it easy for journalists to write about your company. Log a history of your company’s journey, photos of products, screenshots of software platforms, photos of your team etc. Things that really help us to illustrate an article.
DM: In any press communication, key and clear messages about what you’re trying to convey should be at the base of it. Keep the language simple in order to make it accessible for any type of audience. These clear messages should be accompanied by precise and interesting facts and statistics. Think about a press communication almost like pitching your startup.
AF: When talking to a journalist, meeting them or even just sending them an email with the aim of having an article written about your company, you have to ask yourself one question: What title would I like? Limit what you are going to say in terms of key information and content to what you would be happy reading in article about your startup.
GR: It is worth bearing in mind additionally that any communication with press needs to be interesting. If it's not interesting it won’t interest others and journalists won’t even write about it half of the time. Interesting news brings more exposure and a bigger audience.
DM: You need a spokesperson for the company. It’s essential to identify one person as the figurehead for all things press within the company. With this, you can manage it more effectively, more easily and also build trust and relationships with journalists on a personal level.
GR: Speaking with a journalist is like a job interview, in terms of preparation required and only saying things that paint yourself (your company) in a good light. If you don’t want a journalist to write anything, don’t say it, even “off the record”. If you carefully manage the conversation, you can manage the article.
IT: What are the objectives behind communicating with press? Why should startups do this?
AF: The idea is to clearly put across what you do and what your goals are. It’s not just to generate contacts, it’s to facilitate commercial links, potential investors etc. Predominantly, for exposure. This is why communication with press requires a great deal of retroplanning, structure and management.
DM: People often don’t realise the importance of the one on one aspect of communicating with the press. You need to build a network of journalists you trust and who are interested in what you have to say. Nurturing the relationships will benefit you in the future with more potential for good press and brand exposure and even in case of bad news, it could be spun in a lighter angle.
GR: Regarding modification requests, making errors is normal, don’t hesitate to ask journalists to correct anything. Although its published, it’s not set in stone. It’s fine for incorrect statements or statistics. However, what you have to bear in mind is editorial freedom. At the end of the day, your responsibility is communication and a journalist’s is information. You have to respect the way in which they convey the information.
AF: It shouldn’t just be press releases or information you would like articles written about that you send to journalists. You should keep a journalist regularly informed, even if doesn’t lead to articles: it’s all about maintaining a relationship with journalists and keeping them informed.
An important thing to remember is: do not start to communicate with journalists if your product is not ready. As we often say, you have only one opportunity to make a first impression.
IT: And regarding press releases? What are some of the best things to bear in mind and what should you avoid?
AF: When sending your press release to journalists, you have to make the email stand out. Do you know how many press releases journalists receive? Between 200-600 a day. This is why you have to make yours stand out from the rest; make the title of the email the title of your press release and get the point across clearly; help them skim read your document and make a quick (positive) decision about it Journalists don’t have time to trawl through every email. And please, do not send your press release as an attachment! Include it in the body of the email.
DM: Use the clear questions of why, what, how and why to structure your press release. Keep it short, clear and concise. Make sure you prioritise making technological language simple. Popularisation is very important if you want to make yourself understood by the world outside your company and experts.
IT: This is particularly the case at Partech as we consistently invest in deep tech, AI etc: all very difficult topics to understand for an average reader. That’s why put a lot of time into our press releases, making the highly technical products and vocabulary accessible for a wider readership.
GR: Popularization of language is crucial but when you simplify it too much it can be seen by journalists as waffle or bullshit.
DM: Concrete statistics always stand out and speak for themselves. Don’t underestimate the value of them. Things like percentage of growth, number of customers, number of downloads etc. always help to make a better press information.
GR: Remember to share what you plan to do with the funds as well and history, steps and stages that your company has been through. Readers and journalists won’t have even heard of the company most of the time, so it is important to underline where you came from and where you’re going.
AF: Always see a press release as a way of reconnecting with press and letting them know where you are on the journey.
IT: Would you say that startups need a PR agency?
AF: Well, in fact, you don’t need a PR agency, you need time. But as an entrepreneur, you don’t have time, that’s why you need a PR agency - laughs. More seriously, press relations take a lot of time and skills, particularly establishing relationships with journalists. You have got to learn about what they write and what particularly interests them. If you have the time to do it, and time over several months and if you put the effort in, it is the best way.
IT: When you start out, you can also ask for help from the VCs that invested in your startup. This is what we do at Partech, especially with pre-seed and seed startups who don’t have enough resources or experience to do it alone.
IT: How do you build these relationships, which journalists should you communicate with?
GR: Do some research on the news outlet. What sort of length of article do you want, what they’ve written before etc. they each vary massively from one another. They each put their own spin on things.
IT: And on the topic of building with relationships with journalists, how important are events and a presence at them?
DM: What you have to do before an event is ask yourself how important your presence will be at the event, which format, what type of event it is and what exposure you will get. It also depends on your messages or your news and check whether the event is really the best way to promote them.
GR: Rationalize before. Of course, if you go to an event it's always going to be beneficial for a startup but some events are very expensive just for a small stand in a big venue. For example, at VivaTech, there were 9000 startups. Like Delphine said, ask yourself what you’re going to get out of it.
AF: What’s good about events is that you can also use them to your advantage without attending them. It’s a time when journalists are all interested in the same thing and are writing them same sort of articles. Make the most of it and find a way of using it positively.
GR: That being said, it's important not to underestimate the importance of presence at events in terms of networking and press relations that you make. For example, I was at a small event in Sofia and there were only 5 French startups, it was invaluable for them in terms of contacts, all for just a cheap plane ticket.
Want to read more about PR?
Here are a few articles by Maddyness that can be useful to entrepreneurs:
You can also download the 2019 PR Guide by Maddyness here.
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