Tech startups in the United States are among the most successful in the world. With more than 17,500 new tech startups established in 2022 alone, the country is a hotbed of startup activity and home to some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Instagram and SpaceX.
Granted, those brands have outgrown the startup stage. Nonetheless, the U.S. remains home to some of the highest-valued tech startups worldwide. But what does it take for a business to go from an idea at the kitchen table to global notoriety? Leveraging the power of public relations (PR) can make the difference between obscurity and prosperity.
Understanding the Digital Landscape for Tech Startups
Wildly successful tech startups such as social media platforms or the likes of Airbnb have become the stuff of legend in recent years. Based on the publicity some of these brands receive, it would be easy to believe that founding and building a tech startup is relatively straightforward.
Taking a closer look, though, it becomes obvious that the digital landscape for tech startups is highly competitive, and success is anything but guaranteed. Access to venture capital remains one of the biggest factors influencing a startup’s capacity to grow and expand. In the U.S., investment volume reached record levels in 2020 and 2021, with 2021 exceeding $340 billion.
However, in 2022, investors seemingly took a step back, and venture capital levels dropped to just over $240 billion. At the same time, the number of initial public offerings (IPOs) of startups dropped in 2022 compared to 2021.
The picture is clear – tech startups are facing challenging market conditions. Despite the continued growth of the sector, those entering the tech startup sector now need to work harder to stand out from the crowd and attract the interest of investors.
Crafting Compelling PR Strategies and Campaigns
Public relations, or PR, is one of the most cost-effective strategies for tech startups to stand out in a crowded marketplace and distinguish themselves from their competitors. For the uninitiated, PR refers to the strategic communications process used by brands to build relationships between a business and its publics.
Rather than paying for advertising space, PR relies on telling compelling stories about the startup, its founders, and its products. Like any part of a company’s marketing strategy, PR works best when it is integrated into the overall business plan and when communications goals and objectives are aligned with the company’s overall goals.
Successful PR also relies on understanding a tech startup’s audiences. While individual brands differ, many startups will be looking to attract the attention of potential investors and secure early-stage customers. Being able to demonstrate consumer interest or demand to investors could sway their decision in a new company’s favor.
Public relations can help secure those initial customers by helping build a strong online presence and leveraging social media platforms.
Building a Strong Online Presence
Fifty years ago, new businesses needed an attractive storefront, business cards, and perhaps a few adverts in the local newspaper to grab the attention of customers. Today’s tech startups need to build a strong online presence instead.
Building this presence starts by creating a website with engaging content. Especially in the initial stages, there is no need for the website’s content to be extensive. Tech startups need to focus on providing relevant content and an enjoyable user experience instead.
Taking a Mobile-First Approach
One of the critical factors in providing that user experience is making a company’s online presence mobile-friendly. Worldwide, mobile phones accounted for more than 50% of all internet usage by the end of 2022.
In developing markets, the percentage is much higher because these areas effectively skipped the desktop computer phase. While the U.S. is not a developing market by any stretch, mobile phones still account for more than 45% of all internet use. No tech startup can afford to miss out on that kind of exposure.
Using PR to Maximize Exposure
Aside from creating a user-friendly website, startups need to ensure that their online presence is optimized for search engines like Google. One of the best approaches to ranking high on search engines is to create a compelling brand story or offer and deliver it through consistent messaging. This is one of the strengths of PR professionals.
Take the early days of Dropbox, for example. The company launched a referral program encouraging customers to invite their friends to the platform. The offer not only generated media coverage in the likes of Techcrunch but inspired other brands to follow suit. To this day, tech brands like Revolut or Airalo incentivize referrals.
Leveraging Social Media Platforms for PR
Social media platforms were built for people to connect to others, but their functionality has long since expanded. Brands are using social media to connect with their audiences directly and gain insights directly from consumers.
Those insights can then inform PR campaign messages, for example. Moving in the other direction, social media platforms offer excellent opportunities to amplify PR messages. Sharing press releases or their core messages allows brands to reach consumers more directly.
Digital marketing and public relations have made it easier for PR professionals to assess the performance of their campaigns. Before measuring, teams need to define key performance indicators (KPIs) to avoid being overwhelmed by data.
Online engagement, brand mentions, and overall website traffic are valid KPIs, but brands can push further than that. More advanced measures, like the tone of consumer reactions, can deliver greater insight to allow more accurate targeting.
PR offers tech startups an excellent pathway to gain exposure and build a reputation for their brand. Developing an outstanding, mobile-friendly online presence and sharing expertise through thought leadership pieces are two elements of successful tech startup PR strategies.
The key to all effective PR activity is consistency. Sharing content regularly and using dependable, steady messaging will make the difference to help your brand stand out from its competitors.