All publicity actually isn’t good publicity, if it doesn’t help your company achieve its goals. Press coverage can be effective, free advertising for your startup if you know how to make it work for you. John MacDonald, founder and CEO of wireless charging startup Pi and winner of last year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF, says the key is timing your press coverage with a specific goal, using your extended network for help, and preparing for success and failure.
John went into detail on these three steps at Hardwired NYC, a monthly event hosted by FirstMark.
When is the time to get the media involved?
Simply put, the right time is when your business has a goal to achieve. “When your business is going great, when you’ve closed a funding round, when you’ve surpassed a major sales milestone, that’s when you start to get calls from media outlets. That’s also when you don’t need the media,” says John.
The right time to get press for your company is when you have something you need to achieve, not when you’ve already achieved something.
Your objective may be to get investors interested in your company to close a new round of funding, jumpstart sales by increasing brand recognition, garner new corporate partnerships, or another goal that’s important for your specific venture.
The company launch is often the biggest press opportunity for a startup. “You only launch once. Once you have revealed your company to the world, nobody cares to hear about you revealing your company to the world a second time.” advises John. Pi saw their company launch as a unique opportunity to help them raise a Series A, and approached PR around the announcement with that specific goal in mind.
Who can help you prepare for press?
It is very important to utilize outside resources when planning your PR strategy. Here’s who John suggests reaching out to during preparations:
- Investors: Talk to your existing investors, big and small. ‘They know reporters. They have friends who know reporters. They have followers on social media. All of this is powerful and helpful,” says John. “Ask them for their support. They want you to succeed just as much as you do.”
- Event organizers: Whether you’re participating in a small local pitch-off or a global awards ceremony, engage with the event organizers. They want you to be successful and make a splash because it helps their event, and they will provide support to make that happen. Ask for their advice: who’s attending the event, who you should talk to, what have successful presentations done in the past, what specific ideas do they have for your presentation?
- Your Village: Don’t disregard how much the people outside your immediate circle can help you achieve your media goals. In a startup, this begins with your family and friends and branches out to PR firms, branding consultants, even public speaking coaches. Whether you could use help perfecting a pitch deck or polishing your presentation skills, find the experts in your extended community who can offer advice.
How do you prepare for press?
“You need to prepare for every eventuality, especially if you’re doing something live, so that you don’t screw it up,” John says. “Things will inevitably go wrong, and you better be ready for it when everyone’s watching.”
It’s equally important to ensure you prepare for success. Your team must be prepared to handle a sudden wave of external requests while staying focused on your original objective amidst the chaos. After the press surrounding TechCrunch Disrupt, four of the top five consumer electronic OEMs reached out to Pi. They decided to put those exciting opportunities on hold so the team could stay focused on the reason they participated in the event: raising a Series A.
Don’t forget to say thank you.
Finally, in the midst of all the attention, it can be easy to forget who got you there. When you achieve your goals, John says to remember that your team is what makes you successful. Be sure to thank them their hard work. You didn’t get to this point all by yourself!
For more tips on utilizing the media, including when the press can’t help you, watch John’s full Hardwired NYC talk: