Here is a story I wrote for the current Start Up magazine:
As part of strategic planning, start-up companies look at their target customer acquisition, costs and revenue. These are of primary importance, but it is also important work on less tangible work streams, such as media strategy and profile.
Creating a profile is important for attracting early customers and investment.
Many start-ups report that advertising is ineffective. The cost to broadcast your message widely can be prohibitive, so building an effective media strategy will be a key part of getting noticed.
Working effectively with the media is not something you can turn on immediately. It takes a while to build relationships and get experience. For start-ups without media experience, it is a good idea to work with a communications consultant. For a few thousand dollars each month they’ll help you shape your message and help get it out there.
There are newspapers, trade publications, lifestyle magazines, radio and television, blogs, podcasts and conferences. So take a broad view of what works for you and where you can start.
Learn to crawl before you run. Start with local media and build your way up to national media. Handling an interview is something you need to learn – your communications consultant can help you with media training. You will make mistakes but over time you will get better and better.
Some simple things you’ll learn quickly – stick to your key messages, nothing is off the record, controversy sells, don’t bullshit, don’t ask to see what goes out before publication. No matter what is written you still wake up the next morning.
The benefit of profile can be hard to measure but what you can measure is that you are executing on your plan. Setting media goals is absolutely measurable. For example you may set a goal of a positive article in the national print media each month.
Leaders of start-up companies need to be able to communicate. Often this does not come naturally for technical people. But practice, practice, practice and you will get better.
As a stretch you could include in your plan some radio goals. Speaking live to radio is frightening to many people so it is a good skill to work on. Radio is all about finding expert commentary, so you can get started by being an industry expert, rather than talking about your own company. They are always looking for credible people so don’t be scared to make contact.
In New Zealand the morning business television programmes are the premium exposure points for your start-up. So make that a goal 12 months out and work towards it. Local stars Ponoko have been features in the Wall Street Journal and Wired.
Each time you appear in the media you should review it with someone who is strong enough to tell you truthfully how you went. This will accelerate your experience.
As well as gaining experience from your 12-month media plan, the execution will toughen you up. When you step in the spotlight to promote your business people will fire arrows. It comes with the territory so you need to get used to it.
So set a media plan with measurable activities every month. After 12 months the benefits will be obvious.