Important PR Tips for Entrepreneurs

I’ve been meaning to go to a meeting of The New York Entrepreneurs Business Network (NYEBN) and finally did last week. NYEBN, founded in 2009 by Andrew Ran Wong, has over 10,000 members and hosts frequent meetings that bring together New York City entrepreneurs, mostly from the tech sector, to listen to new ideas and mingle. I was impressed with the energy of the group — about 50 people crowded into a conference room to hear a panel of journalists give advice on how to generate publicity for your startup company. The panel included John Biggs, from TechCrunch/TechGear, Lori Hoberman, an attorney working with startups at Chadbourne Parke LLP, Ramon Nuez, who covers business and tech for the Huffington Post, and me.

A few important PR points emerged:

  • Target carefully: Know the journalists you are approaching with your story, and let them know about other related articles you’ve read by them.
  • Be persistent but not a stalker: Journalists can get hundreds of queries and story pitches a day. If you haven’t heard back after two or three emails, don’t take it personally but understand that your pitch isn’t resonating.
  • Realize that traditional media are not the only outlets for publicity: Leverage your own relationships to get buzz about your startup. If you have contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, getting them talking can be as beneficial as getting coverage through a journalist.
  • Know the key influencers in your sector: A corollary to the point above — if you target the people who are the super-connectors to others and get them to have a look at your product and they blog about it, you can spread the word faster.
  • You may not need a PR firm: John noted that startups can get through to journalists without the use of a PR firm, and that may be the more judicious choice, especially early on when cash is especially tight.
  • Learn about provisional patents: In the excitement of starting up, you may have something great and begin promoting it without any protection of your intellectual property. Lori recommended looking into filing a low-cost provisional patent as soon as practical.
  • Be human: Ramon made a great point, which is to “say hello” when you’re writing to a journalist. It’s amazing how far a brief comment like, “How’s your day going?” can prompt a more generous response from journalists, who, after all, are people, too (most of them).

Several of the attendees sent me follow-up emails about their entrepreneurial ventures, and the tone and content was significantly better than what I usually see in my inbox. These are folks who have been trained by Andrew Ran Wong and their fellow NYEBN members to be friendly, civil, and generous in their dealings with each other and with the media they seek to help tell their stories. If you’re a New York City startup and you haven’t yet gone to a NYEBN meeting, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

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