What the First Month of a Successful Startup PR Program Looks Like
Your startup has decided to take the plunge and invest in a PR program – now what?
As your PR firm has likely told you, PR takes time. You aren’t likely to see big, splashy results the minute you sign the contract. But what should you see? That is, what kinds of things should your PR firm be doing in the first month to set you up for consistent coverage over time? And more importantly, how can you reassure an antsy boss that you made the right decision?
Here, we break down what to expect. If you see activities like these in the first few weeks of a new PR program, you can be fairly confident that you’re in good hands.
The contract is signed, you’ve met your agency’s leadership team, and now it’s time to get the PR program (party) started. A strong kickoff meeting helps build energy and gives an opportunity for everyone involved to share ideas as a team.
It’s best to have everyone who will have a stake in the PR program in one room (the marketing team, PR team, and even the CEO if you can grab their time). PR is most successful when the program has buy-in and support from leadership at all levels.
A great first meeting should include the following elements.
Your PR Team
Week 1: Messaging & Strategy
Your PR firm has to have a firm grip on your company’s messaging to pitch your story well and accurately. In week one, most firms start drafting a messaging document that outlines...
- Company background: Founding story, company milestones, metrics (funding, new products, proof of growth), etc.
- Key audiences and messages: Which “customer” audiences should PR placements reach? Which stories and messages are most important? (Note: if you don’t know, your PR team should be able to help you think this through.)
- Boilerplate and thought leader profiles: An agreed-upon press release boilerplate and an overview of each thought leader who will speak to the media (title, expertise, experience).
Your PR firm should also present a strategy for how they’ll move the program forward: which publications and industry verticals they’ll target, media trends that relate to your business, and possibly even a tiered list of publications and reporters they plan to reach out to.
Week 2: Media Training & Outreach
Some thought leaders at your company might feel comfortable speaking with the media. But chances are, this is the first time you’ll be proactively seeking out interview opportunities. It’s smart to have your PR firm put together a media training session (no longer than one hour) that shares tips and advice for taking on media interviews.
You might even consider a mock Q&A where someone from your PR firm acts as the reporter and your CEO answers as if it’s a real interview. This session will cover things like…
- How do you answer a question in a way that’s concise and insightful?
- What company metrics and customer information can and can’t you share?
- What’s the best way to deflect a question you don’t want to answer?
Week two also marks the start of media outreach. Your PR firm should start reaching out to reporters with an introduction to the CEO and other key thought leaders. We at Propllr call these “source file” pitches. They outline:
- The leader’s background and company’s one-liner overview.
- Topics the leader can speak to and trends they’re seeing in the space.
- The leader’s bona fides (what makes them an expert in their field).
Week 3: Thought Leadership Calls
Informational interviews with key thought leaders at your company can help inform the PR messaging even further. Your firm should set up 30- to 45-minute calls with company leadership to learn about their role at the company, trends and insights they’d like to share with the media, and goals they hope to accomplish through PR wins.
Week 4: PR Flywheel
Just as it takes time to build relationships with reporters, it takes time to land the perfect PR placement (or any placement, for that matter). Your PR firm should come to the table with some quick wins the first month: an interview with a local business pub, a Q&A with niche trades, or a background call with a couple of industry-specific reporters. But the real gold-medal placements will come over time, as the payoff of meaningful, long-term conversations with reporters (and weeks of consistent outreach).
Final Thoughts on Month One
The best PR programs are built on relationships of trust and support between customers and PR teams. And the biggest PR wins come from similar relationships between PR professionals and the reporters they pitch.
It’s rare to see a “home-run” placement in the first month of a PR program. But if you see a lot of what I outline here, you’re probably in good hands and on track to achieve your goals for the program.