Digital Marketing and PR for Startups

The biggest challenge for any startup is rising above the noise and grabbing that initial customer attention. Whether you’ve recently launched, are about to launch…

  • How do you go from zero to sixty?
  • How do you use digital marketing and PR to interact with your consumer base when you don’t have a consumer base yet?
  • How do you compete with other startups and brands that already have the jump on you in your space?
  • How do you explain a brand new product or service and make people not only notice, but care and get involved?

Unless you’ve created something so unique, so earth shatteringly original and so needed by everyone that word spreads like magic, or your investment partners are so famous that their story carries yours, you’ll have to fight it out with everyone else. Many startups turn to social media marketing because of the seemingly low barrier to entry and low cost.

While launching headstrong into social media can indeed be cheap, doing it effectively and producing results isn’t always so.


The most apparent difference between brands and startups is that brands already have lots of customers, many of whom are also fans. You don’t… yet.
Brands also have name recognition, which plays a big part in both social media and PR as they fight for attention. You don’t. Nobody knows who you are… yet.


Social media is like a stream that leads to a river that leads to an ocean.
Your startup, products and services, are still at the top of the stream.
Some of your potential customers are in the river, and most of them are in the ocean. You need to get from the stream to the river as fast as you can before one of three things happens:

  • Your money dries up
  • Your competition passes you by
  • Your product or service becomes dated or irrelevant
  • You burn out and quit

The big secret is that you’re going to have to:

  1. Answer the tough question “why should anyone care about what my startup does?”
  2. Answer that question with a “seismic event” to get people’s attention (think amazing videos, contests, stunts)
  3. Include some element of paid tactics (think paid ad placements, paid influencers), combined with targeted PR (think blog and publication outreach / appearances) at the start, to get you there.

Throwing up a free Facebook and Twitter account, making an “explainer” video and waiting for a rush of attention isn’t a viable strategy. You’re going to have to buy some attention to get off the blocks. The thinking here, is that you pay up front, and go from “paid attention” to “earned attention.” That’s where you want to be. That’s when the media, influencers and new customers start looking for you!


This is where a well designed organic social media marketing strategy and consistent execution come in. Imagine if you could coordinate the items below so they run like a fine tuned engine!

  1. Focus on just the key social media channels that make sense for your product or service
  2. Keep creating and sharing content, like videos, photos, memes
  3. Invest in short-term paid ads to promote content
  4. Engage influencers (and pay them if you have to)
  5. Do regular giveaways on social media channels
  6. Make your likes, followers and subscribers into rockstars by publicizing them
  7. Continue with PR / blog and publication outreach
  8. Measure results, what’s working and not working, and double down on what’s working
  9. Stop doing what’s not working

10. Don’t burn yourself out, and get digital marketing help if you need it


Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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