Does Your Startup Have a Story?

“Startups that are failing tend to be struggling to tell a compelling story.”

Last week, the Dittoe Public Relations team was given the opportunity to take a front row seat as hundreds of entrepreneurs, founders and creative technologists from across the country converged on Indianapolis for the city’s first startup conference, The Powder Keg.

The Powder Keg introduced something brand new to Indianapolis by creating a series of events that exemplified the spirit of entrepreneurship: sharing and leveraging the power of perspective shifting ideas so they can spread as widely and effectively as possible.

The entrepreneur community in Indianapolis (and across the Midwest) is itself an early-stage startup, but The Powder Keg proved without a shadow of a doubt that entrepreneurial energy and momentum are no longer limited to coastal tech hubs.














So, how can Indianapolis and other cities throughout the Midwest join the ranks of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston as centers of creation and innovation?

Tell better stories.

Throughout The Powder Keg, an interesting theme emerged as presenter after presenter took the stage and stressed the importance of telling your company’s story.

Nobody articulated the importance of storytelling better than Scott Case, founding CTO of Priceline and CEO of Startup America Partnership: “Startups that are failing tend to be struggling to tell a compelling story.”

In the startup world, the creation of a story can seem trivial when compared to the creation of a product or service, and the notion of storytelling can seem intimidating as it often conveys a very complicated process. As a result, startups often forgo the storytelling process so they can continue focusing on building and improving their product or service.

Now, don’t get me wrong, having a finished, easy-to-use product that delivers what it promises is critical. But a well-made product or useful service is not a story, and there is no shortage of great products and services that nobody has ever heard of.

A story is something that conveys information, ideas, emotion and context in an original and engaging manner. By itself, a startup does not provide context or convey emotion; it is merely a provider of a product, service or idea.

Sometimes, founders and entrepreneurs can be so invested in ensuring their startup’s success that they forget to consider the big picture: “What does this mean to those who aren’t invested (financially or emotionally) in our company?” “How does this new product change or improve upon something that has already been done?”

The amazing thing about early-stage startups is that every one of them has a story. And, having worked with more than a few, I can tell you that startup stories are some of the most entertaining ones you’ll ever hear.

Never underestimate the importance of just telling a good story. To make others care about your company or idea—whether you’re pitching your startup to potential investors, clients, partners and journalists, or just conversing with friends and family— you need to engage them with a story that conveys information, ideas, emotion and context.

What’s your startup’s story?


A big thanks to Matt Hunckler and the Verge community for hosting The Powder Keg and Startup Bowl!

Why Investing in PR Makes Sense for Startups

Some PR firms shy away from working with startups. Why? They see these young, blossoming companies as needy, inexperienced newbies lacking a proper marketing budget. But that’s not the way we see it. Working with startups brings raw energy, inspiration and fresh perspectives to the table. And that’s why Dittoe PR has had a love affair with startups that spans more than a decade.

As the director of business development for one of the country’s best high-tech PR firms, I get to meet a lot of cool startups (check out Quipol, uFlavor and Musical DNA). Now, it’s fair to say that most startups (at least the ones that I have had the pleasure of meeting) have limited budgets for marketing. My advice? Rather than trying to do everything right off the cuff, invest in one form of marketing and do it well.  Here is why I believe, that for startups, PR should be the single-line item in their marketing budget for 2012.

Creates brand awareness. PR is the quickest way to share your brand’s story with the masses. Consumers look to the media for insight on the latest and greatest.  Receiving editorial coverage on TechCrunch, Mashable, Rolling Stone, The New York Times or WIRED can catapult your brand to a whole new level.

Builds authority in search. It’s no secret that a successful PR campaign can boost your SEO. That’s why I asked our partner Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media, author of “Corporate Blogging for Dummies” and founder of the Marketing Tech Blog, for his thoughts on the subject.

“Much of the Internet, including what you see in search results and promoted socially is found and ranked based on authority. In search, authority is measured in backlinks from authority sites.  In social, the voice is amplified further based on the authority of the person talking about it. Since authority isn’t something that a startup has, it’s something they have to acquire. While it is possible for a startup to build authority without help, it takes months to see any gainful results. This is crucial to the health of a startup. The reason why we push a public relations strategy with all of our startup clients is because they’re able to jumpstart their authority online by actively getting in front of influencers. PR also trickles down, providing great backlinks in search results and tons of attention socially. Public relations should be a foundation for all startups. In other words, our startup clients are able to get to market faster and get greater results quicker with a PR strategy than without.”

Saves valuable time. When you’re at the helm of a startup, you’re wearing a hundred different hats.  When you’re responsible for everything from coding to customer retention strategies, chances are PR will slip to the bottom of your endless to do list.  When you hire a PR agency, you’ll have a dedicated person or team devoted to PR responsibilities.

“As any entrepreneur who has dabbled in PR knows, it’s incredibly time-consuming to research the appropriate media outlets for their startup, find the right contacts at each media outlet, develop attention-getting pitches, write press releases and follow up with writers to see coverage through,” says Lauren Sanders, partner and vice president of account services at Dittoe PR.  “With a PR agency, you’re able to take a very time-consuming role off your plate and focus on other areas of the business that need your attention.

Helps define your brand. In addition to the time factor, another great reason to hire a PR agency for your startup is to get an unbiased yet knowledgeable perspective on how to best position your startup to the press.

“As an entrepreneur, you get so close to your ‘baby’ that it can be difficult to take a step back and determine the best way to describe your startup to the media,” says Sanders.  

A PR professional is constantly communicating with a variety of media outlets, journalists and bloggers and they have a keen sense of what certain outlets and reporters respond to best and what they would find interesting about your startup.

Garners attention from investors. As you can probably tell, we’re no stranger to working with startups. We’ve had more than one client catch the eye of venture capitalists through media coverage that we have secured for them on sites like Venture Beat, Tech Crunch, and Mashable. After all, the best way to get noticed by top investors is to get out there and make some noise.