Press events can conjure images of 5-star hotel ballrooms, crowds of journalists being shuffled around a venue ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over elaborate product displays and a thousand cameras flashing as billion-dollar CEOs uncover innovative new products and services that promise to change earth as we know it.
For cash-strapped startups, pulling off a successful press event may seem like an impossibility. We’re here to tell you it’s not and to let you in on a few secrets of getting some stellar press, without spending your entire series A funding on it.
As a startup you have to hustle, think creatively and use whatever you have at your disposal to achieve maximum impact with minimum cost! That’s exactly what one of our clients, Letsee did.
Letsee reached out to us to help them get some press exposure. They had just launched their app, a great augmented reality reference guide for beer lovers (alcoholics beer enthusiasts, try it out for yourself!). They are based in Seoul, Korea and the team specifically wanted to target global users, while keeping the budget very firmly rooted on the ground.
The app itself is very unique and super simple to use: You open it and point the camera at the label on any bottle of beer. Immediately, you see user reviews and pre-loaded information from their internal database appear on the screen.
At that stage their library of beers sat at 330, which covers about 85% of the beers typically available around the world.
At this stage, Letsee had secured no prior press coverage. They were astounded by what we were able to achieve with a minimal budget and only a few days to complete the project.
We knew that this was going to be a challenge given the budget, time and the scope. We had one week to prepare and only one outreach strategy we could realistically pull off.
We decided that a one-shot press event, focusing on English journalists based in Korea, was our best bet for maximum impact. Enabling journalists to test and review the app themselves, with our staff and LetSee’s CEO on hand to guide them, would help secure coverage.
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So how did we pull of an event that made it to the front pages of Mashable, Tech in Asia, and a host of other publications around the world?
To ensure that writers had reliable and consistent information about the company and app in advance of the event, we produced three pieces of work before doing any outreach: A press release, a company Fast Facts document, and a quick overhaul of the client’s website.
Approaching journalists and using the app’s recent release as a news hook, we shared our press material, pointed them towards the now beautifully written website and invited them to join us in trying the app for themselves, over a beer of course.
We reached out to a small number of journalists who we knew well and had worked with previously. This event was last minute – and given the budget – we wanted to a more intimate setting, where the writers could easily interact with the app and LetSee’s CEO. That way, we could maximize the CEO’s presence and also ensure every journalist’s experience was positive.
Thanks to our existing relationships with the writers, we were comfortable calling or even sending Facebook messages to gauge interest, before sending through a more formal press kit for them to look over. This also helped us position the event (which had a clear business goal of securing press coverage) as a social meetup with a few friends.
A journalist, a PR guy, and a CEO with a beer app walk into a bar…
In the end 6 writers showed up for Letsee’s event, hosted in a local bar. We’d called ahead to make sure it was ok with the bar, but hadn’t needed to book the whole venue.
The K-Pop was turned down for a moment and the CEO did a brief introduction, showing how the app worked. Then everyone got a chance to try it for themselves. And when I say chance to try it out themselves, I mean 99-bottles-of-beer-on-the-wall-level of testing.
As the journalists ventured out into the coolers, the CEO helped them quickly navigate the user interface, answering questions as they came up. Having the CEO casually explain his own service over a beer was pivotal to the success of the event. Imagine having Mark Zuckerberg personally guide you through Facebook. OK, Letsee isn’t FB, but having the CEO on hand showed he was willing to go the extra mile and helped build rapid relationships.
After a few rounds courtesy of Letsee, a photoshoot, a few brief interviews and a handful of selfies everyone was on their way for the weekend. Quick, easy, and fun and all for an exceedingly palatable cost.
After the event is where our prep work paid off. We re-sent writers the press release and Fast Facts we had written before as well as a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for attending the event. Don’t forget to thank your attendees for taking time out to come see you!
We monitored the media to see if any of the writers had written about Letsee and sure enough, Elaine Ramirez from Tech in Asia had.
Because she’d had the whole LetSee experience, including trialling the app and speaking with the CEO while doing so, the article was incredibly in-depth. Full company and service introduction, valuable quotes, background information, photos from the event and screenshots. All topped off with a killer title.
Thanks to Elaine’s in-depth and interesting article, the original story was picked up by Mashable and from there it took off. Ultimately, it was featured on 18 different publications across more than 5 languages.
Beyond the confidence boost that press attention can have, LetSee saw download numbers rocket. From a few hundred Beta users, download numbers shot to around 7000 per day and stayed steady for quite a while.
We’ve always told clients that it’s not always a good time to do PR. LetSee hadn’t quite completed preparation of their app for the global market. There were a few bugs and still some Korean language reviews in the database. As a result reviews in the app stores were not great (averaging around 2.4*). LetSee should have waited to get these issues sorted out first, but the team were quick to respond and worked round the clock to turn things around fast.
What the Letsee event demonstrates is that to run a successful press event you don’t need tonnes of money and a fully fledged internal PR team. Instead, you just need some creativity, a sprinkling of startup hustle, some great content and a decent press network.
If you’re tight on budget utilize an advantage your startup has, like this beer-review startup did by hosting their event in a bar. Remember that nothing is more compelling than personal experience of your product or service. I’ve written before about using local advantages around you, it’s the same principle here; use every single advantage you have.
All you need, as in this case, is one writer to truly get it and write a great review, then things can rapidly escalate from there.
Your event might not have caviar and champagne, but with some startup pizzazz you can still get those ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and camera flashes if you prop your advantages just right.