The biggest challenge facing start-ups is getting the business name (and purpose) known so that you can then work to win the trust of potential customers.
In our case that’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, but we also need to talk to the wider population, a community of prospective investors. Basically these are people interested in buying shares/equity in the innovative business ideas and companies that are seeking finance on Crowdcube.
PR has been a core part of our marketing strategy since we launched and will continue to be critical in establishing our brand and continuing a discussion with these audiences.
Back in 2011 when Darren Westlake and I launched the company, the concept of equity crowdfunding was completely new and we spent a lot more time educating people about crowdfunding: what it was, how it worked, the different types of crowdfunding and why it was needed as an alternative to traditional sources of finance. PR is a perfect tool for this because it enables you to have a conversation on the issues.
We had a few false starts. Our first attempt at a self-made press release sent out through a wire service didn’t ignite many fires. Clearly there’s a lot to be said for the power of targeting; not just the right audience, but the right reporter at specific media targets too. These are things that a PR professional knows about.
We came across a particular boutique PR agency and its founder after seeing how successfully she did the media launch of a new social media platform. We thought that whoever was able to achieve that much awareness for a concept was the person for us. At the time she was a freelance consultant, but now she has a PR agency with more than 10 consultants. We were impressed by the interest she showed in our business and how selective she was about the clients that she wanted to work for.
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Choosing a PR professional who is going to be as passionate about your business as you are is important. She was also acutely aware of our budget restraints but clear about how much you can achieve when you work smartly and are highly targeted. A key part of working in this way is collaboration. Crowdcube and our PR firm (Eureka Communications) really work as an integrated team and I think that’s been massively important in how much we’ve been able to achieve with a modest budget.
Together we were able to create a relevant and meaningful story that generated a sizeable amount of initial exposure and fuelled a lot of our SEO and online buzz too. We’ve also built relationships with key journalists in national media as well as niche audiences.
Having an innovative business idea makes a good story, but only once the media understands the model and its benefits. Now we’re operating in a competitive landscape and while we may not need to keep explaining what crowdfunding is, we do need to continue talking about the issues that are of importance to all of our audiences. PR is a fantastic vehicle to do that, and its power should never be underestimated.