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How To Create Buzz Around Your Company

Are you trying to build buzz, but don’t have the cash to launch a full-fledged PR campaign?  Hack it.

I emphasize that the best PR you can build is through satisfied customers with high Net Promoter scores. In other words, you should focus first on a great product/service, and only after you’ve achieved that worry about PR.  There’s a world of difference between PR success and actual business success.  I’ve seen lots of companies think that they’re succeeding because they’re in Forbes and Techcrunch, but unless you’re Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, being visible doesn’t automatically translate to cash.
We’ve listed below some of the more creative ways that we’ve seen our portfolio companies and others attract the media, at zero or trivial cost.  If you’re not familiar with the industry, check out this Beginner’s Guide To PR .

  • Sign up for (HARO), one of the secrets of the PR business.  HARO connects you to reporters who are writing articles and seeking sources/people to profile.  You can just reach out and submit yourself to be written about.
  • Nominate company representatives as speakers for tech or entrepreneurship conferences.  Major conferences seek startups to feature at no charge. These conferences are not only a great way to raise your startup’s profile, they also serve as valuable networking opportunities within the tech/VC community.  I particularly urge you to review SpeakerNetNews; it contains a tremendous amount of curated wisdom from professional speakers: how to be a more powerful speaker, deal with distracting audiences, etc.  For another useful guide on how to gain PR from high-profile startup conferences, check out Conference Tips For Startups and 15 Tips from Keith Ferrazzi, Conference Commando. For a full list of major tech conferences, see
  • Pitch journalists directly with your story: use this  comprehensive tech reporter contact list.
  • Exploit social media and establish a voice for your company.  Build a clear and strong voice on Twitter, follow relevant influencers and press, and eventually they will follow your company back. This builds brand loyalty and is another way to showcase company news and momentous occasions.   An advocate-management service like Influitive helps you to motivate your champions (friends, family, customers, employees) to take actions to move your company forward.
  • Host an event. If you have office space that isn’t used during the evenings, consider hosting an event to discuss your company or other themes pertinent to the startup / tech scene. ff Venture Capital recently hosted an event in its offices to feature two of its portfolio companies: MovableInk and
  • Enter into personal competitions. Competitions such as NYC Venture Fellows, which is a selective and international program, help successful entrepreneurs take their ventures to the next level. Each year, 20-30 “rising star” entrepreneurs from New York City and around the world are selected through a competitive nomination process. I list many other elite programs for “young leaders” in a talk I gave at NYU on squeezing maximum value out of school. See the section on “Selective Programs”.
  • Enter into business plan competitions. For an exhaustive list of business plan competitions, check out MIT Global Startup Workshop’s list. Of course, keep in mind that business plans are a very poor predictor of a successful business. Some of the most notable contests include:
    • TechStars Startup Madness, a March Madness-style tournament bracket of 64 startups meeting the following requirements: Haven’t raised funding of $250,000 or more and haven’t generated revenue of more than $250,000 in a single year, have a live, usable public site or an accessible demo on their home page, have not already been in the TechStars program.  This is not for TechStars companies or alumni companies, and must be an internet, software, or hi-tech company.
    • Global AWS Start-Up Challenge: a way for promising start-ups to get noticed and compete for an opportunity to win up to $100,000 in cash and AWS credits. Eligible start-ups that are using the AWS cloud computing platform can submit an entry into the contest which describes their business plan and use of AWS paid services.
    • Forbes Next #1000.
  • Reach out to websites that profile entrepreneurs, but only if your company sells particularly to founders.  For example, interviews entrepreneurs from all industries to learn about small business experience and strategies. Under 30 CEO and Young Entrepreneur profile younger CEOs, while Mixergy allows entrepreneurs to share their experiences at part of an online business education.
  • Distribute press releases on free sites like Free Press Release and Not surprisingly, though, these free services won’t get you in the top tier publications.
  • Run an Indiegogo campaign, e.g., Interaxon used to raise $287,472 and also identify early customers.  (both ff VC companies).
  • Support charitable causes. Identifying your company with charitable events or auctions helps you build positive brand sentiment. To support a notable cause, you could donate personal time with your CEO to an auction or engage your company in a public fundraising campaign (e.g. x% of sales made today will be donated to _____).  You can also donate your time and advice through charity website Charitybuzz. I’ve donated lunch with me to some charities via this channel. However, the best way to do this is to lead a charitable initiative that ties in directly with your core initiative.  For example, the Venture Capital Access Program (VCAP), the initiative I co-founded focused on helping women and minorities increase access to venture capital, will likely be highly profitable, but I also know it’s good PR in the target market I care about, which is entrepreneurs.

Finally, as Aishwarya Iyer (ffVC’s Director of Communications) says, “Public relations is both an art and science, but the most important thing to remember is authenticity.”  If you don’t have a good product that you can represent authentically, more PR will just kill your company faster.

Previously published on Forbes. This is an updated and combined version of two posts I previously published on this blog in 2011 and 2012. Thanks to Joan Xie for her help drafting these.

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