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The road to catastrophe: PR disasters for start-ups

March 04, 2015

It is certainly not easy being a start-up, and more so in India, where there is a huge start-up clutter. Usually they don’t have a huge budget to spend on advertising. And the only way their product or service could get the right buzz is through public relations. Handling the media, dealing with them is definitely not easy—in fact, a daunting task for most start-up founders. This post is definitely not about how to leverage PR successfully, it’s the other way round. It will help you understand what not to do as a start-up.

Here are four common mistakes that most start-ups should stay away from:

• When your website hates the press:
So you don’t have an agency that could be the custodian of your communication. A journalist is doing a story on your space and wants to cover your company too. He visits your site and spends 10 minutes but can’t reach your press-related information and contact details. What’s next? He moves on!
Deadlines are usually tight, and a journalist may not be willing or able to jump through such hurdles in order to cover your company. So first things first, keep the press section and press contacts up and running!

• Launching it bigger than you are!
When you are a start-up, make sure that even at a launch conference you keep it simple and classy. Media today are a smart lot. They cover events for the content and not for the drink and dinner. If you are a never-heard-of company and you throw open a launch event with the style of a movie premiere, media will get you there. The conversation will move away from product innovation to who is investing in them.
Always remember, a big launch doesn’t make the product bigger. The product should make the noise.

• The e-mail murder
Here are a few things thatare deal-breakers in press releases and story pitch e-mails:
1) Grammar/spelling mistakes in an e-mail, press release or a presentation.
2) Different fonts used in one release/e-mail, an act that obviously reeks of a cut-and-pastejob.
3) Leaving out the name in the salutation, which tells people that you’ve sent out a mass mail.
4) Sending e-mails with huge attachments. Not only does it make your message more likely to lose a battle to spam and virus filters, but bloated attachments can seriously irritate journalists.

• There is no such thing as ‘’Off-the-record’’
Founders sometimes make the painful mistake of assuming that if they are saying something as off-the-record, someone won’t use it. Not true. In today’s world of social media, everyone can share quotable quotes and videos.

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