What is it?
Partnerships and Relationships with press and influencer for early stage startups is less between you and a much bigger entity be it corporate, influencer, or press (Tesla, Oprah, or front page of Al-Jazeera) - this rarely happens because you rarely have anything (audience size/tech) that’s worth their time. But, do not despair, you can definitely partner with startups or influencers your size or build relationships with press that’s very interested in your industry. With influencers, you can co-promote each other in blogs, social media, email lists; with press, you can offer them interesting pieces
How to do it
Start with identifying influencers or startups serving a similar target audience, but with a non-competitive or a complementary product/service. Their influence could be formal (like a school principal) or informal (like a helpful parent at the school). Just like your customers trust you (because, hopefully, you’ve been creating value for them, either through your product or at least giving them relevant advice), these startups or influencers have the trust of their friends/customers/followers. Come up with an offering (it could be information, a widget, or a special discount) and a reason why the potential partner should promote you, and be willing to help them in return (promoting them with your following). Depending on how big this target list of partners is, this could be a scalable strategy (if you make a process out of it, and employ interns or cheaper freelancers to follow your process, using your templates etc.) or very unscalable.
With PR & much bigger Influencers, build a longer-term strategy:
Build the relationships. The best PR strategy starts months before you need PR (much like everything else in startup, including hiring & fundraising). Identify the publications you want to be featured in, or the influencer you want to write about you. Build a relationship by sharing their stories, adding to them, posting thoughtful comments/responses to their stories
Reach Out When Ready. The best pitches are short, very customized to the reporter/influencer and their audience, quantitative, and they stand out. You don’t want to be like the 50 pitches you got told a “no”. You want to be the one pitch who was told a yes. Keep it brief. Mention your metrics. If it’s an influencer, angle the email to fit their style.
Know that you’re investing into a relationship, not a transaction. Just because you don’t get the nod today, doesn’t mean you won’t get the nod in 8 months. Don’t ruin that future chance.
Common Mistakes Founders Make
Getting PR too early….Receiving PR before you’ve found product market fit could lose your company and yourself a lot of respect in your respective field.
Relying on Techcrunch or one influencer for your whole PR strategy. Techcrunch is a good part of a strategy, but it should never be THE strategy
Reaching out to the press right when you need PR. You should have these relationships built over the past several months or years
Assuming that PR is the solver of all problems PR is a small part of the whole equation, and it only hurts you if you don’t have PMF yet.
A startup selling subscription service for women’s clothes can partner with startup selling women’s fitness classes. They could come up with a joint offering - ex: everyone who buys one has an option to try out the other for 1 month for free (or whatever CPA makes sense to you)
A startup selling a SaaS product to college admission offices can partner with student recruitment agencies.
Real World Example
Founder about getting free press from Time, Business Insider etc.
Pitching, Relationship Building, BD, influencers, relationships
Why Most Startups Don't Get Press First Round Review - Publication From First Round, A Venture Capital Firm
Five tips every startup should know for building strong relationships and PR buzz Rei Biermann - AWS Startups
Guide To Public Relations Heather Anne Ritchie-Carson, Co-Founder, Onboardly