I recently attended NY Tech Day where 400 eager beaver startups sought to get some love—not to mention media and VC attention—at their respective exhibit booths.
All this company self-promotion raises an interesting question: How do you truly differentiate your new business in a sea of startups? How do you make a name for your company?
First, a few facts to consider:
- A survey of CEOs once found that startup companies that engage in PR are 30 percent more successful in getting early funding than those that don’t.
- Well-known VC firms are getting into the PR game with firms like Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, and Sequoia hiring in-house PR talent.
There is a simple reason startups and their financial backers are entering the PR arena: PR done right works. My B2B PR firm over the years has launched a number of startups and we’ve found that PR can truly make the difference in a startup’s obtaining new customers, growing revenues—and catching the ultimate brass ring—funding.
Don’t for a second, however, think that PR for startups is a slam dunk. The hard truth is that no one cares about the latest whiz bang product or service released by an unknown company unless it does something amazing. And to be honest, most new products or services are not going to knock your socks off. That is where public relations comes into play. A good PR person can properly position your product or service—or yourself for that matter—so that people care. Great PR—and yes there is such a thing—transforms a product or service into something meaningful.
Consider the term "Certified Pre-Owned Car." I’m old enough to remember when the term didn’t exist. You simply bought a used car. It didn’t give you a lot of bragging rights. The car company geniuses who came up with the terminology "Certified Pre-Owned Car" turned the negative connotation of a used car into a positive. Suddenly, a used car had to meet certain standards and criteria. Better yet, it often came with a warranty. Of course, all those goodies are folded into the price of the car. But at least you received something solid for your money. And no worries if the car was a clunker. Meanwhile, you could take pride in your "like new" car.
Let’s look at another example—this from a startup called lettrs (a client of my PR agency, incidentally). The company recently launched an iPhone app that it positions as a "post office in your hand." The app lets you write and send digital and postal letters directly from your phone turning the iPhone into a mobile writing desk wherever you are. The positioning and analogy turned what could have been just another app into something immediately understandable and compelling. Most of the press coverage highlighted the digital-post office positioning, as this Mashable piece illustrates.
So before you start hawking your startup, spend some time developing your messaging and positioning. Not only will it help you stand out but it will also help make it memorable and engaging. After all, you can be just another has-been company or you can Think Different.
[Image: Flickr user Darren Johnson]