PR can feel like a behemoth to tackle. And let’s face it – you’re a startup founder or part of an early stage team with little spare time as it is. I doubt that the thought of writing press releases gets you out of bed in the morning.
While there are a lot of moving parts to PR, from building media lists and pitching journalists to drafting contributed articles and being interviewed for a podcast, looking at your PR program through the lens of project management can make it more approachable and less daunting, while at the same time maximizing results.
Here, I spell out five project management tips that will help you minimize effort and maximize impact for your PR program.
1: Establish Your Objectives and Tactics
In order to get the best bang for your buck with a PR program, it’s crucial to first determine what you want to get out of it. At this stage in your startup’s life, you’re likely focused on two objectives: generating awareness and increasing credibility.
After you determine objectives, identify which PR tactics will help you get there. These might include the following:
- Issue press releases about business growth or new funding and pitch them to reporters.
- Appear on a podcast that covers trends in your industry.
- Talk to market researchers and analysts that cover your space.
- Pitch an interview, Q&A, or contributed article to an industry trade publication about how current events will drive trends in your space.
This first step will set the groundwork for everything that needs to be completed in your PR program.
2: Use a Digital Project Management Tool
A digital project management tool is a must-have for any startup serious about running a successful PR program. There are simply too many moving parts to keep track of without one.
We use Asana religiously here at Propllr to keep track of deliverables, deadlines, who’s responsible for what, and more. Trello and Monday are other popular solutions to consider.
Whichever tool you decide to use, it should have three core capabilities:
- Log work that needs to be completed.
- Assign owners to work.
- Assign deadlines to work.
Which brings me to my next tip…
3: Be Deadline-Oriented
It sounds simple enough, but deadlines really are the driving force that makes projects cross the finish line.
As a startup founder, you probably spend your time on pretty much everything other than PR. That’s why deadlines are so important to a PR program. They ensure your startup messaging gets written, your press releases go live on time, and pitches get sent to reporters ahead of your go-live date for news.
The best way to manage deadlines is to work backwards. Identify what date your deliverable needs to go live, and give yourself due dates for each step of the process.
For example, if your news goes live on October 30, you should have your press release ready to share with reporters under embargo about a week or week and a half before that date (three weeks for TechCrunch!). And then you’d leave a few days before that for colleagues to provide feedback on your initial draft. And so on.
Pro tip: Be realistic with your deadlines. While it can be tempting to get big news out as fast as possible, give yourself ample time to draft a solid press release. And give your colleagues enough time to give you helpful feedback.
4: Be Process-Oriented
From my experience managing startup PR programs, I can tell you that success depends heavily on being process-oriented.
The good thing about processes is that by making them now, you can save yourself a lot of time later. By implementing repeatable processes, your PR program goes from being a shapeless obligation you don’t know how to tackle to being a clear to-do list.
On Propllr’s media relations team, we identified the top five things that we do most often and made process templates for them in Asana. So each time we need to draft a press release, for example, we know exactly what steps we need to take in order to get it from inception to publication on schedule.
Here’s an inside look at our process for press releases (see Figure 1):
- Gather information needed to draft press release: 4 weeks ahead of launch (interviews, research, etc.)
- Draft press release: 3.5 weeks ahead of launch
- Send release to client for review: 3 weeks ahead of launch
- Pitch release to reporters (under embargo): 2 weeks ahead of launch
- Publish press release on wire distribution service: launch day
Figure 1: Our Asana project template for getting press releases out the door
PR takes a lot of time and effort – that’s part of why Propllr exists. But there’s no reason to do it alone if you don’t have to. This is where delegation comes into play.
For example, maybe someone in marketing writes the first draft of a press release or Q&A, then sends it to you for review. And that same person could pitch a handful of reporters on your upcoming VC round, noting that you’re available for interview opportunities.
There are some best practices to delegation though, all of which I practice as the director of the media relations department here. Each time you delegate, remember to…;
- Include a deadline for when the work needs to be completed by (see tip #3).
- Identify the person responsible for completing the work.
- Make the ask crystal clear.
- Give the person you’re delegating to the opportunity to ask questions or state if the ask isn’t clear.
Following these best practices can and will save you time, while reducing any corrective work down the road.
Play the Long Game
PR success doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to get reporters to cover your startup. But when they do, the payout can be exponential.
By implementing these five project management tips and a little bit of patience, your PR program can and will be much more exciting – and less intimidating – for you, all while delivering better results faster.