Getting in the media

In the ninth episode of the Startup Series, owner of digital-media agency FLAVR, Omar Choudhry explains how to use social media to gain PR coverage for your brand.

Putting social media at the heart of your marketing campaign means you can bypass PR agencies and become your own publisher, according to Omar Choudhry of digital media agency FLAVR.

Omar, who has worked with global brands including Adidas and Spotify, says mobile and social media have completely changed the way brands communicate with audiences. Startup owners can bypass PR agencies and media outlets and use platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to promote their product or service. They can create and distribute content or messages which are distributed direct to their target audience via social media channels.

“We have this incredibly powerful tool in our hands all the time - it’s a mobile device,” says Omar. “Within that, you have these platforms called social media. And with social media you literally are the media and PR outlet yourself.”

How brands implement PR campaigns has changed rapidly over the past decade. Ten years ago, PR involved identifying relevant media outlets, newsworthy angles, writing press releases, then approaching journalists and broadcasters and persuading them to publish what you’d written. The decision on what would actually get published was in the hands of the editors.

Today, startups can use social media to gain results, either through publishing their own content or building relationships with social media influencers. Omar explains the speed of the change: “I’m 24, but even when I was 20, I was doing some PR work for companies and would have to submit articles to a distributor, who would then send it out to all the online channels. Now, you can direct message the author directly and say ‘Hey, I want to put this article out, would you mind writing this about me or would you mind posting it?’ It’s very easy to build relationships, so you are in control.”

Read on below for Omar’s top tips on how to use social media to create a buzz about your brand:


1. Cut out the middleman by creating and distributing your own content

Social media gives you a platform to create content that’s relevant to your brand and values. Different channels suit different media - YouTube, for example is the channel of choice for sharing videos, Instagram for images. You can also repost and distribute links to your content on Facebook and Twitter.

To save time, Omar recommends creating content which can be reshaped for other channels, rather than creating lots of different new versions from scratch to suit different platforms: “With YouTube, for instance, you can create your own content and distribute it yourself. You can market it yourself on Facebook, you can market yourself on Instagram and use Instagram stories and repurpose that same content in a different dimension.”

2. Rule number 1: be authentic

Your customers can easily spot a fake. Whether you are appearing in your own video, or writing a blog, be natural. Make sure what you write or film is who you really are.

“Now we have social media, you can be perceived the way you want to be perceived,” says Omar. “People aren’t stupid. Everyone has a voice and when you give everyone a voice, it's more pressure on you to be authentic. Be your own PR outlet, put your truth out, be real with who you are.”

3. To keep your audience coming back, make sure there’s a key benefit to your content

Always create content with your audience in mind. And once you’ve decided on an approach, be consistent in delivering it.

Omar explains: “You have to understand that people are gonna follow you because it gives them some sort of benefit as well. It could be entertainment. If you're a YouTube blogger who just creates pranks or comedy videos, that’s great, you’re serving people escapism and entertainment. You could provide education or inspiration for people.”

4. You can only engage your audience by being yourself

The key rule on social media is to be yourself. Omar says you should only create content which mirrors your personality. Ignoring this can create confusion between what your are and what you stand for, which can be damaging to your brand.

He says: “Only do what suits your personality. Find out what your niche is and what suits you best. Don’t try to be a comedian if you’re not. Don’t try to be inspirational if you’re just trying to read quotes from Albert Einstein and repurpose them as your own. That applies to brands as well. Be you, be yourself and people will take you for who you are.”

5. Media coverage won’t happen overnight

As with most aspects of running a business, building a social media presence which delivers good PR coverage for your brand takes dedication and effort. It may take time to generate results but it’s important to keep creating, keep publishing and most importantly, sharing content and building relationships with bloggers and media outlets.

“Understand that it will take time,” says Omar.

Have a UK startup that earns up to £50,000? Join Xero for Startups* and get a years' free membership to Enterprise Nation's small business community. *The Startup Series is published in association with Enterprise Nation.

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