Startup and tech communications teams tend to sit in an advice blackhole. There’s a lot of bad advice out there, and many of the decent insights aren’t specific enough for your situation. That’s why we’re on a mission to make sure you get valuable insights that are geared to your exact challenges and are immediately actionable.

One treasure trove of advice is our podcast FiredUp! We ask every PR leader to share their best piece of advice for tech PR programs. Below are six of our favorite gems that you can start taking advantage of today. And be sure to hang onto them as your startup team grows and scales. They’ll help position your organization as a polished and successful corporate brand. 

1. Be respectful in media correspondence

This tip goes beyond your mom’s advice to always be polite. In Episode 14, founder Travis Van suggests, “Be respectful when mailing a journalist. Read their coverage before pitching.” Startup marketers and PR leaders should be careful not to believe the hype that some agencies try to create by suggesting they can get “the right person to TechCrunch to drop everything and write a story.” The art of journalism is a complex one. Read the coverage, look for themes, and understand how your story fits in, and if nothing else, read the notes the agency provides.

2. Bring unique insight with every media interaction, especially bylines

In Episode 4, media expert Sam Whitmore offers this wise anecdote: “I’ve never heard a better way to test whether you’ve got a good thought leadership piece: Rich Bellis was working at Fast Company. He said to me ‘Could a Fast Company reporter who is a generic fact gatherer, bring more insight and do a better job of conveying the point compared to the executive that’s pitching the thought leadership piece?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then you’ve missed. In theory, the executive who lives and breathes your topic every day ought to be in a perfect position to give unique insights that no generic fact gatherer could ever convey.”

3. Tailor your pitch

In Episode 9, UK PR maven Ilona Hitel reminds us that your pitch doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Success depends on tailoring your tech pitch to the headline news dominating the day and the interest of the reporter. As Ilona pointed out, “Your technology has to fit into the categories that the media are looking to write on. Topics like sustainability, climate, diversity, and AI are part of the media map.”

The tailoring doesn’t end there. “You have to localize your story or your pitch to each EU country. Germany wants its own stories. France wants its own stories, Denmark wants its own stories.”

4. Build a repeatable data program

In Episode 11, Firebrand SVP Ian Lipner demonstrated how tech public relations can benefit from data stories. “Data-driven storytelling is about doing the work that journalists would if they had access to that data, and trying to find the interesting and sometimes important stories that your company can tell. Tech brands might know about the affinities and priorities of their customer sets. Views into recently changed behaviors and views into transactional data will be dynamic. The repeatable data program is where the real value is.” One data point or survey may not be a story on its own.

When creating a program like this, consider the role of consistency, timeliness, and the critical mass of survey participants that makes your report media-friendly. 

Use the acronym “DATA GO” for your strategy: Determine goals, Aggregate data assets, Team up with the right partners, Ask the right questions. Then Glean the narrative and Operationalize the findings.

5. Use easy-to-understand principles when measuring PR and showing the impact of your communications program

In Episode 12, Richard Bagnall, Co-managing Partner of CARMA and board director at AMEC, advises tech PR leaders: “Don’t allow complexity to get in the way of telling a decent measurement story for your PR program.” He suggests starting with The Barcelona Principles and AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework.

As for your measurement goals, make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound. What is the organization trying to accomplish? Why does the organization want the PR and comms support? What does the organization expect from  PR and comms?

Bagnall also says to avoid the temptation of getting caught up in your competitors. Focus on getting it right for your organization, particularly if there are budget constraints. Worry about your job and your objectives.

6. Bring the X factor

In Episode 26: Chris Ulbrich and Morgan McLintic debated whether to announce seed funding. Their verdict? “At the seed funding round, even more than any other round, reporters are going to be looking at the total story package because the funding amount is not likely to raise eyebrows on its own. When you can show early traction, that may even be the most important factor of all the seed round story.”

If you have something that’s genuinely novel, announcing your funding helps with your market positioning. Don’t give a competitor the chance to announce that they’re doing something similar first.

But don’t panic if you don’t have an X factor that makes your story compelling right off the bat — most startups don’t. It may make more sense to wait and get a good customer on board for your Series A funding announcement. Cultivate your relationships with potential analysts or with your investors, and just get everything ready for a really impactful Series A announcement.

What about when you move past the seed stage? During the Zero Interest Rate Period, Firebrand saw companies raise funding rounds spanning from seed to Series C in one year. It’s important to have enough new story to tell when you’re going to announce that next round, and the story has to evolve.

These suggestions can each be summed up in a one-sentence recommendation, but they take care to practice on a daily basis in your tech PR program. If you need additional inspiration to add new flair to your startup’s brand in the core disciplines of marketing or communications, check out all of our FiredUp! podcast episodes here.

About the Author

Maura Lafferty is an influencer relations specialist, with a particular focus on media outreach over social channels. Maura has over 14 years' experience in public relations, and relationships with media working in national, California, and Silicon Valley newsrooms.