15 Ways Lean Startups can Maximize PR/Marketing Opportunities

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15 Ways Lean Startups can Maximize PR/Marketing Opportunities

With the right strategy and placement, marketing and PR opportunities can do wonders for a brand. If you’re a scrappy startup or just don’t have the resources for an in-house marketing team, outsourcing to a well-regarded agency can get pricey. So, how can a lean startup reap the benefits of PR and marketing without the hefty price tag?

We asked 15 entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to give us one creative strategy lean companies can use to stretch their dollar when it comes to PR/marketing opportunities. Their best answers are below.

Allow Guests to Contribute Content

kelsey Meyer

Write articles that educate and engage your target audience, and pitch them to the editors at the publications your audience actually reads. If the content is well-written, not promotional, and adds value to their readers, there is a good chance you can get published. We surveyed 153 editors and found out what they are looking for in guest content — you can read about it here.

– Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

Narrow Your Focus

Nathalie LussierOne of the issues with long-range things like PR and marketing is that it’s easy to spread your resources too thin and not get results. Instead, consider just choosing a few higher return opportunities to focus on, and put all of your internal efforts on these. For example, go for a bigger publication or outlet, and make your campaign top-notch, rather than pitching many smaller sites.

– Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media Inc.

Use a Pay-for-Success Payment Model

doreen-blochWhen it comes to working with an agency or consultant for PR or marketing, consider negotiating to pay for success, rather than just paying a flat fee. Paying for success means that you will only be invoiced for successful press placements, for example. Paying for success means that you can stay lean, while still driving toward your PR and marketing goals.

– Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Build Relationships on Twitter

Ben LangIt’s very easy to reach bloggers and journalists through Twitter if you do it right. Follow journalists, talk to them, and become friendly way before you need something from them. One day it can pay off when you need to send them a DM about a certain story.

– Ben Lang, Mapme

Connect on LinkedIn

jared-brownAlways reach out to key influencers on media outlets and complementary businesses on LinkedIn. Always be building your professional network there. You can leverage those contacts to your mutual benefit for guest blogging opportunities, free publicity, and faster approvals on blog comments that link back to your website or blog. Taking the time to build these relationships pays off in the end.

– Jared Brown, Hubstaff


Alexis WolferCross-promote with other blogs, offer to guest write for relevant platforms or just share your tips with other experts in the field. You’ll be providing them with free content (and who doesn’t want that?!) while also getting free press. It’s a win-win.

– Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean

Pick Up the Phone

Anthony JohnsonI’ve learned that news and other media outlets are starving for content. If you have a story that is newsworthy, call the news desk or email the editor. You never know when they decide to run with it. At the very least, establish the relationship and become a credible source for news, and the job becomes so much easier. It doesn’t take a PR firm, just a phone and determination.

– Anthony Johnson, American Injury Attorney Group

Maximize Real-Time Marketing and PR

Kris RubyReal-time marketing and PR is all the rage. Follow the news cycle and look for connections to trending stories. If you have a genuine tie-in to the story, let the media know directly. If it’s a breaking news day, find any tie-in that is truly authentic. This applies to social media marketing and public relations campaigns. Show that you are a valuable source by contributing what the media needs.

– Kris Ruby, Ruby Media Group

Take a Personalized Approach to Pitching

Andy KaruzaYou can greatly increase your press conversions by taking a personalized approach in the way you interact with the media. Follow a reporter’s writing, find out what they like to write about, then deliver your pitch in a unique way that relates to their interests.

– Andy Karuza, SpotSurvey

Try Guerilla Marketing and Commission-Only PR Efforts

Nick FriedmanWhen we first started College Hunks Hauling Junk, we didn’t have a big budget, so we would park our trucks in visible locations like the entrance to the baseball stadium in Washington, DC, during big games. We also hired PR interns to pitch major media outlets and we paid them a commission only when they landed a feature story.

– Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk

Look to Your Data

George-Bousis-bwDifferentiation is everything, and you can use your findings to create interesting stories. Whether it’s internal growth stats or industry statistics, show your expertise.


– George Bousis, Raise

Feature Like-Minded Influencers

Firas KittanehCreating and publishing interviews or Q&As with experts involves collaboration with folks associated with your field. Thus, name-dropping them on your blog or article will make their existing fan base aware of you and your company. It’s a low-cost measure that requires minimal effort for implementation but has huge potential to draw in a group of consumers that you perhaps wouldn’t normally reach.

– Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

Invest in a Few Hours of Consulting

Zach CutlerWhile most lean startups don’t have the funds for a full PR/marketing campaign, investing in a few hours of consultancy can be a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck. A consultant can help you define your company’s message, devise story ideas to pitch on your own, and help create a press release for your company, setting the foundation for your outreach efforts at a low-cost.

– Zach Cutler, Cutler PR


Kelsey RechtNetworking opens new doors, at minimal to no cost. The more industry professionals you speak with, the larger the support system thatcan help or point you in the right direction. Effective relationship building is also a two-way street! Don’t just open your hands. Be creative with returning the favor — send interesting articles, make new introductions, pay it forward!

– Kelsey Recht, VenueBook

Find PR Through Your Competition

Elliot BohmDid a journalist just cover your competitor? Chances are they are interested in you too! Set up Google alerts for your competitors and reach out to the writer on Twitter that you have more info about the subject they are talking about. They may not be interested every time, but remember, reporters love the ease of getting a great story.

– Elliot Bohm, Cardcash.com


What PR or marketing strategies have you had success with during lean times? 

Featured Image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, internationally syndicated business columnist, author (Never Get a 'Real' Job), TV commentator and founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC),... Read Full Bio
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  • Angel Kinnard

    Great post, much helpful and creative for lean startup owners. In addition to these 15 ways, there are some other key points I want to highlight here. For lean startups, customers development holds a major place. Though customer development is one of the toughest things to execute in the scenario, but it helps us to refrain from doing mistakes and better identify new market opportunities. We need to check our target audience before we build anything. One of my close friends’ been managing a startup project, so i got an idea of the whole picture with his help. He was involved in a continuous and on-going learning process. His team conducted low-touch, high-impact feedback loops with the customers. It helped them in getting an idea of the customer demands.

  • Elizabeth

    Useful points of view! Thanks for sharing, I will take them into consideration.