PR Tips Podcast 006: Startup PR Tips And Tactics With Erica Swallow


 Erica Swallow is a startup public relations powerhouse. She’s a technology journalist and consultant helping startups master the finer points of business storytelling, between her travels, panel appearances and other adventures.

Erica is a long-time contributor to Mashable, a contributor to Forbes and her writing has also appeared in Entrepreneur, CNN, Huffington Post and USA Today. Erica also teaches the Udemt Startup PR course, which is also featured TechCrunch’s Crunch U. Needless to say, Erica knows a thing or two about startup journalism, and how to help startups get their story in the press. But she’s also the first to admit that she learns new storytelling tactics each day.

On this episode of the PR Tips For Startups Podcast we speak with Erica about the human aspects of the startup public relations process, as well as innovative public relations tactics to tell your story to the world.

PR tactics for first-time entrepreneurs

Startups don’t have big marketing budgets, strong SEO footprints or name recognition, Erica says. But startup founders have “newness” and passion, which can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to speaking with reporters. “Be as human as possible,” says Erica. When you’re in your early days it just you and a small team eating and breathing your cause. This passion and commitment is infectious.

How to select the right journalists to pitch

Erica suggests making a daily ritual of reading your favorite technology, entrepreneurship and startup publications. This way you get a feel for the style of coverage of each, as well as the particular interests of the journalist most likely to write about your company. Erica also says that you should pay attention to the way your favorite reporters write the headlines to their stories.

Your pitch to your favorite reporter should mimic the style of headline they’re likely to write, and, if possible, the subject of your pitch should mirror the headline of the story you’d like the reporter to publish about you.

How to effectively pitch your startup to reporters

Make your story pitches visual and visceral. “People don’t just want to consume empty words,” Erica says. Startup journalism is generally very cut and dry. It doesn’t have to be. What does your startup do? How many users does your startup have? How much money has the startup raised? From whom? Just the facts.

Erica commends the writers at Bits, the technology blog of The New York Times, who write startup stories with color and verve, taking something that is ostensibly a collection of 1′s and 0′s and really bringing it to life. Pitch your startup story with images, customer case studies, and anything that makes your business relatable to the audience. Remember to be human. Focus on the impact you create for other humans. Journalists are humans, too.

Other startup marketing techniques

Pitching stories to journalists is only one of many ways to get your message out there. Telling your story with white papers and customer case studies, and leveraging proprietary user data are great ways to humanize your business and capture journalists’ attention.  Journalists love data. In-person events and meetups are a great way to connect with your hardcore fans, and to create a noteworthy occasion that may attract members of the press, Erica says. She also recommends that you think about webinars as a platform to communicate your message to the public.

Startups with great PR

HotelTonight is an iPhone app that allows last-minute travelers to book deeply-discounted stays at boutique hotels in a growing number cities. HotelTonight gets love from the technology press, travel industry press, and the company gets high marks for its use of social media. As a startup your story has many angles you can exploit to speak to journalists who cover

Also mentioned in this interview:

Vayable CEO Jamie Wong

Contently CEO Shane Snow



You can reach Erica @EricaSwallow on Twitter, and EricaSwallow [at] gmail [dot] com

Learn how your story can change the world

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