PR Strategies for Start-ups: Building Buzz on a Budget

PR Strategies for Start-ups: Building Buzz on a Budget

Public relations plays a crucial role for any start-up.

Komal Rukhana

Mumbai: Public relations plays a crucial role for any start-up. It’s like having someone else to vouch for your business instead of blowing its own trumpet. It helps build credibility, creates a value proposition, focuses on storytelling and attracts investors at a later stage. Usually start-ups have extremely limited resources and are often bootstrapped, with sliver budgets to scale and grow. This often seems like PR isn’t for start-ups. Well, PR stands as one of the most cost-effective elements in the business and founders can start with budgets of any size. The only thing to keep in mind is that it demands consistency – it takes time for brands to grow and create their voice in a cluttered market.

Here are top 5 PR strategies for Start-ups to maximise reach and further grow their brand.

1.Capitalise on excellent storytelling by crafting a compelling narrative

Humans have used storytelling for thousands of years to build connections with others and strengthen bonds within communities. PR is also about storytelling. When brands shed light on their motivation behind business ideas, or by reducing pain points of customers and solving their troubles through data based research, it creates a value proposition. In simpler terms, the USP of the brand is established, thereby differentiating them from their competitors or establishing a first mover advantage.

For instance, a prominent name in the fashion industry, that was primarily perceived as a mass production brand, wanted to transition to the perception of a design-led company. Through strategic PR initiatives like gathering significant traction among fashion influencers, celebrities, and prestigious fashion events, we achieved this shift by emphasising the brand's commitment to innovative designs, quality craftsmanship, and exclusivity.

Leveraging key partnerships within our network with renowned fashion influencers and enabling the brand to reach fashion-forward consumers, we manifested couture exhibitions for our clients and innovative capsule collections with key KOLs to expand its reach to an exclusive and elite clientele. Through meticulous planning and through a design innovation led approach, we positioned them in key fashion shows alongside the best labels in the country. By aligning its messaging and positioning with the aspirations of its target audience, the brand has solidified its presence in the luxury fashion market and poised itself for continued growth and success.

2. Leverage owned, earned and shared media

First, set clear goals with founders on the PR message that the brand wants to communicate. It can be to launch the start-up, a product from the collection or an announcement of a new strategic location expansion. Then, one can leverage owned, earned and/or shared media. Owned media includes blogs, informative articles and building a robust social media presence helps start-ups gain the initial traction needed and SEO value to really stand out. Start-ups can also leverage earned media by media-training their CEOs and aligning that with the backgrounds and vision of the founders.

A key ingredient to all strategies is a compelling press kit that highlights the launch of the brand, its story with compelling visuals to take advantage of opportunities that are more personal than product-focused. Strategically collaborating with businesses that have similar target audiences and creating social media content and contests are also pivotal.

3. Invest accurately in a strategy

In the current digital age, influencer marketing  plays a key role in creating and driving content for businesses in their key markets. Investing in influencers which accurately match your business views and have a high engagement rate will prove to be extremely beneficial for businesses on a budget. Be it a sexual wellness client who would like to build a niche for themselves in the market or a bootstrapped fashion client; creating unique messaging with influencers can push sales through specific and well targeted affiliate programs. This helps turn the eyeballs needed for short term boosts. This can be a pre-launch event, a digital buzz, to achieve campaign specific goals or funnel movers for geographic markets. Identifying and working with the right nano and macro level influencers can be mutually beneficial for both parties.

Further to influencer marketing is crafting clever content that is in tune with trends. This would ensure that brands are seen as entities that are well aware of industry trends and have an opinion on it. But most importantly, it’s advisable to establish a budget and the cost to benefit ratio when building out an influencer marketing strategy for brands with bootstrapped budgets.

4. Keep a proactive approach

It’s possible that a start-up may not have the budget to host an event or have a significant piece of news worthy of announcement to make frequently. This, however, doesn’t mean that PR needs to fall short. Publicists must keep a proactive approach towards it all, from constantly researching trends and connecting with the media, to creating relevant and compelling story ideas. Once a rapport is built, one must timely attend and facilitate inbound query requests to engage with budding brands. This should be a priority on the agenda for publicists.

5. Crisis Management

When working with start-ups there could be a bunch of knicks that they will need to iron out as they go along. In such times, be patient with your client. Having a robust crisis management strategy in place can help any negative press or blow outs on social media.

One size fits all cannot be the approach to PR. It's imperative to devise plans especially curated for every business, as each one has its unique needs, aim, budget and market. In order to curtail budgets, PR can be flexibly moulded in any way as per the specific requirements of a brand. For instance, a renowned sneaker brand based in a south-east country, aimed to establish its presence in the competitive Indian market while operating on a limited budget, to test the waters in a new market before diving in. Through strategic planning and innovative thinking, we devised a unique gifting campaign targeting the exclusive sneaker community in India. The campaign involved sending exclusive merchandise as pre-invites to the launch of the exclusive store and website in India. We utilised the power of social media and digital marketing to amplify the reach of the gifting campaign, unveiling to reach a wider audience among the sneaker enthusiasts across the country. The gifting drive then served as a prelude to the website launch where we strategically tied up with influencers to unravel the UX and UI, along with the benefits of shopping online and finally launching the official store in India a month later with key media and industry KOLS.

In a nutshell, start-ups must have a PR strategy in place, regardless of the budget or the end goal. Through effective PR, new and freshly ideated strategies that fit the business’s short or long term goals are set in and targeted plans of action result in setting up a brand narrative for the targeted audience. As the strategic tool that enables effective communication, PR remains an indispensable asset for companies that when employed in the right manner can deliver immense growth.

The article is authored by Mint and Milk PR founder Komal Rukhana.