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What Crowdfunders Need to Know about Public Relations

The success of your crowdfunding campaign depends on attracting enough backers to meet your goals. An effective way to draw people to your project is through a well-planned public relations campaign. If you have a large budget you can hire a PR professional, but entrepreneurs who need to generate publicity on their own can use these tips to make their campaign successful.

1. Give yourself enough time.

Don’t wait until the last minute, when you are days away from the end of your campaign. Lay the foundation for your PR efforts well before the start of the campaign, and time it to begin on your launch date. When you start early, you will have more success finding and cultivating relationships with the right journalists and influencers (more on that below), which will improve your odds of getting coverage from them.

A second important reason for an early start is that the more attention you are able to attract when the campaign begins, the more likely other backers will join in and give their support. For campaigns with low to no funding raised in their first days, only 15% succeed, but if even as little as 5% of the goal is reached at the beginning, the success rate increases to 80%. The lesson from these statistics is that your PR campaign should be in full force right at the beginning.

2. Look beyond the major outlets.

The biggest markets are also the ones that are swamped with the most pitches. You will probably have better odds focusing on smaller outlets, but only if you make the effort to match your campaign with their needs. You can pitch to your local media to see if they will cover the crowdfunding effort of an area resident. You can also reach out to the bloggers, publications and influencers whose followers would have a specific interest in your campaign.

There are services that offer databases of contacts for sale, but while this is a time-saver, the results can be disappointing. A smaller list of good contacts is more valuable than a large list of names that might not be a good match. You can use free tools to find influencers and press contacts in your industry before deciding whether or not to pay more for special database access.

3. Tailor your pitch.

Journalists can receive dozens of pitches per day. In interviews, the most common complaints journalists had about the pitches they receive include:

  • Generic, cookie-cutter press releases
  • Use of clichéd buzzwords, such as “disruptive”
  • A lack of personalization in the communications
  • Sending press releases that are outside the journalist’s area of interest

You can avoid these errors by studying a writer or influencer, trying to connect your campaign to stories they have already covered, and respecting their time with relevant pitches.

4. Polish your pitches.

Your potential contact will be pressed for time, so get right to the point in your subject heading and pare down your copy to the essentials. Founder Institute’s Adeo Ressi suggests the following template:

My company, __(insert name of company)__, is developing __(a defined offering)__ to help __(a defined audience)__ __(solve a problem)__ with __(secret sauce)__.

Also consider utilizing A/B testing for your pitches in order to determine which language gets you the most responses.

5. Act like a PR agent

The real value of hiring a PR professional is in their personal contacts and industry knowledge, built up over time. You can emulate their practices by building up your own relationships with journalists. Your efforts will pay off exponentially if you intend to eventually launch more than one campaign.

Follow the principles of good networking: be involved in your industry, connect on Twitter and through LinkedIn, attend industry events and be visible, and – above all – show a consistent willingness to contribute to your network.

6. Make the most of your successes.

When you do get a mention, add it prominently to your campaign page. This generates excitement and helps visitors to your page feel more confident about becoming backers.

7. Consider alternatives to the pitch.

While the standard press release is still essential to most campaigns, other companies have also had success with alternatives such as ads on Facebook or Google that target influencers, using videos as marketing tools, and creating infographics that journalists can use in their reporting.

With these tips, you can make your efforts more effective in attracting the backers you need for your campaign to be a success.