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Starting Off on the Right Foot: How to Successfully Create a Buzz Around Your Startup Launch

Everyone wants to scream about their startup launch from the rooftops. After an eternity nurturing your brainchild from a ‘eureka moment’ to a real, functioning product or service, it’s a super exciting time for you, your team and your families. But unfortunately, this enthusiasm is not shared by many journalists.

While not unheard of, launch announcements are notoriously difficult to get covered in leading publications. Like baby photos, if people don’t already know who you are, they are unlikely to be interested in them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create a buzz around your startup launch in different ways, by engaging other communities other than the media, by tying your launch into a bigger trend, and using your launch as a means to network and build relationships.

I spoke with a number of experts about how companies can publicize their startup launch in a manner which can really develop relationships both with journalists and the wider tech community:

1. Engage Other Communities Too

Many companies decide to precede their official launch with a ‘soft launch,’ in which they share a beta version with a select audience. Share your beta with fellow entrepreneurs through local accelerators or co-working spaces. Alternatively, post your beta startup launch on platforms like ProductHunt and HackerNews. This offers a great way to introduce yourself, and get some useful feedback from an engaged and knowledgeable audience.

But beware, while ProductHunt and Hackernews are great, they are also extremely saturated, so make use of other platforms like betabound, promotehour, and erli bird too. Also, try startup and developer communities on forum sites like Reddit who are more than happy to offer their two cents worth. Just beware of the trolls.

Startup Launch: Creating Buzz

Soft launches offer insights into how your product will be received and unbiased feedback which can help you fix bugs, and improve elements such as UX and design. Creating a buzz before your launch is important. It allows you to build out your audience, bulk out your social channels and show traction at an early stage when you go live. If people have never heard of you, and you launch, it’s a non-event. However, if you have been mingling, networking, sharing betas and marketing content then people are much more likely to care when the big day comes.

“Your launch should be like the release of a new film – you need to show a series of trailers before you finally get the movie in the theater,” says Dea Wilson, founder of Lifograph. “Don’t keep your startup secret while working on it. Always talk about it as if it is already launched and you want feedback from people. By the time you launch people already know what you do and they already know the brand.”

2. Contact the Media, but Share the Right Stories

When you do decide to reach out to the media, you shouldn’t pitch them your startup launch in itself. Journalists are looking for stories which readers will find interesting, useful, and inspiring. Every startup launches. The point is to show journalists what is different about your company, not what is the same.

Emma McGowan from Tech.co says “ Sorry to be blunt, but no one really cares about your company launching outside of your family and friends. If you want coverage, you need to be doing something interesting and newsworthy. Simply launching a startup doesn’t fit either of those categories.”

If you want to grab the attention of journalists, you need to tie your announcement into a bigger trend. Another idea is to show them another aspect of your company, your team or your culture which is different, interesting, and newsworthy.

Take a look at your big mission, the reason you went to so much trouble developing your company, the problem which you aim to solve and amplify it. Jonathan Greechan, co-founder of the Founder Institute shares an extremely valuable PR hack for pitches:

“If your pitch starts with words like ‘I,’ ‘My,’ ‘Our,’ or ‘We,’ then you’re almost definitely pitching an advertisement, not a story. However, if you force yourself to start your pitch with phrases like ‘There are…,’ ‘Today..,’ or ‘Since 2009…’ you will effectively start pitching a trend or larger cause that makes your company relevant, rather than beating your chest about how awesome you are.”

For example, if you are trying to improve enterprise communications, why not open with a data point about how many hours are wasted trawling through emails each day, backed up by your own surveys. If you want to reduce CO2 emissions with your tech, why not link to the catastrophic risks global warming poses to humanity, and a recent news story on that theme.

Find Your Angle

Pitching to journalists is very time sensitive. Always be on the lookout for other news stories which make your company more relevant.

Journalists love hard data, infographics, white papers, and studies. Be sure to offer them this information, as an email attachment. Or let them know that you would be happy to share more with them. Be sure to spend the time finding the right journalists to pitch your story to. Use Muckrack or Cision to check journalists’ ‘beats’ –the areas they write about — and if possible, try to mention at the start of your personalized pitch why you think your story would be relevant to them, by linking to a previous story they have written.

3. Build out Your Network, and Give More Than You Take

In the world of Silicon Valley and further afield, networking means giving more than you take.

This means building positive relationships — and trust — over time. Don’t just interact with people when you need something from them.

Build positive relationships by being active in your communities, attending events, offering mentorship and expertise on your industry. Another option is to create content in the form of blogs and thought leadership articles and engage with others on social media. Dea Wilson says she tries to check in with each of her contacts regularly. She offers them something valuable every time, be it a potential hire, an introduction to another contact, or a link to content they might find useful:

“Always think five steps down the line. It takes seven exposures before someone begins to trust your brand. If your startup launch is your first exposure, they won’t trust you. But if they’ve heard from you well before, and have a relationship with you, they’re more likely to give it the time of day”

A good way to widen your network organically is by bringing on strong advisors from the outset. Being able to tie your company name to a well-respected figure in your industry improves your social proof. The social proof thus improves your chances of being noticed by investors, or the media. These advisors will also bring with them their own networks. Use advisor’s connections to create a buzz around your launching startup.

4. Hold an Event but Don’t Call It a Startup Launch Event

Even the biggest companies struggle to fill seats at launch events. Filling seats is especially difficult in busy tech hubs with hundreds of events happening every day. As a means of getting asses on seats, while building out your network, why not hold a community appreciation event rather than calling it a launch?

Create an event which offers as much value as possible. Catch eyes with a trendy venue, but woo guests with more than just a couple of glasses of mid-range prosecco. You should provide valuable content too. Providing a workshop or speakers which can give real takeaways will attract people for the right reasons. They’ll also be more receptive to a short presentation about your product at the end of it all.

Don’t just invite target consumers and media, but instead open the invitation to the wider startup community. See your event as an opportunity to get to know your potential community, not just as one big sales pitch.

Startup Launch: Engage with the Community

Be sure to start publicizing your event weeks in advance on social media. Contact local media publications, local bloggers, and influencers to try to get them involved too. Most importantly, remember to sell them your big story, not just your startup launch. It is also a good idea to invest some resources into targeted Facebook adverts. Try to mention any traction you have already had in your messaging. Traction may include the number of beta users you have, or how many pre-launch signups you’ve had.

You Only Launch Once

As Dea Wilson told me, you only launch once, so you sure as hell better be ready when you do. Don’t simply bombarding leading publications with an announcement which is of no use to them. Instead, take the time to engage other communities. Use your startup launch as a means to build relationships and iron out the creases on your product. And if you’re going to reach out to leading publications, amplify your story into something which is actually going to be interesting to them.

One tip, it won’t be the fact that you are launching.


Craig Corbett is principal at media incubator ESPACIO and PR startup Publicize. Alongside his keen interest in startups, Craig is passionate about supporting the media industry, is chairman for CEE tech publication 150sec.com, and a regular contributor for leading publications such as VentureBeat, TNW, Entrepreneur magazine.