The Biggest PR Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make (and How to Fix Them)

Photographed by Andrea Calo for Jennifer Bett Communications

Photographed by Andrea Calo for Jennifer Bett Communications

So, you’ve gone through the process of building a business—wrote a plan, trademarked a name, and developed a product—but now that you’ve hit launch, you’ve missed one important part, getting people to hear about it. If pitching to media is a foreign concept and you have no idea where to start, don’t stress. We know how hard that initial push can be but your hard work deserves to be seen and the public should know about your amazing new business or product.

But, before you start cold emailing journalists, let’s take a look at some of the things you shouldn’t do and how to course correct so you’re on the right track to begin with. To do this, we tapped one of the top publicists’ in start-up PR, Jennifer Bett Meyer, founder and president of Jennifer Bett Communications along with her managing director and partner, Melissa Duren Conner to share the most common PR mistakes entrepreneurs make, and how to fix them. You’re welcome.

PR Mistake #1: Skipping the Storytelling

The Fix: You might have a great product, but it is the deeper part of storytelling aka “The Why” behind your business that will land the meaningful, brand-building features that startups need to get off the ground. Now more than ever, consumers care about the story behind the brands they buy from. They are looking to understand the larger mission of the companies, and the impact their purchases will have.

When speaking to journalists about your brand, think about: What problem does your business solve? What is the founder’s story, and what drove them to launch this business? How is the product made and is there a sustainability or craftsmanship story to tell? How does this business fit into the wider cultural landscape?

PR Mistake #2: Having a Face-Less Brand

The Fix: In our experience, brands who have passionate founders, CEOs, or even CMOs who are willing to put themselves out there in the press are the brands that dominate the media conversation. This goes beyond being quoted in an article here and there, it means speaking at industry conferences, appearing on podcasts, and speaking candidly about the struggles for entrepreneurship columns. These thought-leadership opportunities are crucial to getting you, and your message, out there to a wider community.

Photographed by Andrea Calo for Jennifer Bett Communications

Photographed by Andrea Calo for Jennifer Bett Communications

PR Mistake #3: Only Having 1 Pitch

The Fix: Do your research. We mean this in a few ways:
1) Find out who your target customers are and what they’re reading - those online sites, newspapers, magazines, podcasts and events will inform where you want your story to be told.

2) Note that you can’t communicate to every publication in the same way. If you want your pitch to stand out in an editor’s overcrowded inbox, you need to first make sure your story fits their beat and personalize each and every pitch to highlight the aspect of your business that will appeal to them most.

PR Mistake #4: Not Valuing Qualitative + Quantitative ROI Equally

The Fix: The traditional way to measure the value of press is through a publication’s circulation—how many subscribers they have or how many clicks a site gets per month. While we do think this measurement is important in understanding reach, it’s not the end-all, be-all for evaluating impact. Other qualitative details to consider include:
—messaging: does the feature accurately tell your story and communicate your mission?
—tone: is the feature positive?
—share of voice: is your brand mentioned just once or do you lead the story?

There will be press placements that drive sales and there will be placements that drive brand awareness—you need both to move the needle.

PR Mistake #5: Bad Timing

The Fix: Keeping a pulse on the news cycle is extremely important when building out timelines for launch or major brand announcements. Pay attention to wider cultural moments that will compete for media attention, such as election day, major holidays or breaking news, as well as specific moments within your industry, like fashion week or award shows, that will be an extra busy time for your target reporters.

What lessons have you learned from pitching to media? Was it easier or harder than you thought? Share your experience in the comments below.