Experienced Founder. Startup Marketer and PR Professional. Currently Co-Founder at Repable. Previously I co-founded Onboardly, PR for Startups.
My suggestion would be to only spend time and energy on PR activity that serves a greater purpose than winning the contest. While this is a great excuse/reminder that PR is important, think beyond the startup battle. Look at this as an opportunity to tell your story.
Here are some thoughts that will help in positioning yourself as a thought-leader:
- If you're the only entry from Canada, use this as an opportunity to build relationships with come Canadian tech journalists. Reach out and ask permission to tell them more about your mission. Use the Startup Battle as a hook because it's current and newsworthy. But remember - you really don't want to see "Help griflens win Startup Battlefield" as the headline. You'd rather see them tell the story of your value proposition.
- Are there interesting / relevant startup-focused local media outlets - i.e.: BetaKit, Canada.com, TechVibes, etc that would cover your win and appeal to their readers for help? (Those three are TO-based.)
- Brainstorm 5-10 interesting blog topics you could write on and subsequently submit as guest posts to relevant lifestyle blogs with solid readerships. Pitch the blog owners the topic first and ask if they'd be open to you submitting a guest post discussing the topic. Be sure you're proposing how you can add value to that community. Again, don't lead with 'we're a finalist in the Global Startup Battle' - instead, add voting for you as a classy call to action, once you've given the readers something of value. (Rule of thumb: Give first, Ask second.)
- Network with as many influencers as possible on multiple social media channels like Twitter and via email. Introduce yourself, share your news - without asking for their help, they may just be intrigued to learn more about you and subsequently vote.
Just a few ideas off of the top of my head.
PS: Oh, and good luck! :o)
Find a way to make your contribution to your startup less about 'hours' and more about 'results.'
Make sure you're putting your time and energy into the highest value tasks, or the ones you truly enjoy the most. It will feel less like work.
Then, hire great people (pay them well) for the rest. Don't micromanage but set laser-focused goals and expectations, with checkpoints daily/weekly/monthly. Hold those people accountable. Fire fast if they don't keep up with the speed of your business.
Most importantly, don't start a company you don't love and don't try to solve a problem you're not truly passionate about.
It may sound a little 'mushy,' but I believe it's ok to use the word love in business. ;)
Transparency. It may sound basic and a 'must have', but it's a classic strategy that is proving incredibly successful for great startups like Buffer, 15Five, Groove and others.
The authenticity that shines through when you speak to your customers from 'the heart' can't be replicated using traditional marketing or PR.
Rather than copy+pasting, I discussed it in more detail here: http://onboardly.com/startup-pr/baring-it-all-why-full-exposure-is-a-start-ups-greatest-friend/#.Um6pqZRgaq8
I say to pitch the idea or 'outline' first. Have someone (on the payroll) responsible for sourcing opportunities, then ask your bloggers to pitch ideas. (For consistency's sake - consider bringing them together at a daily or weekly meeting?)
From there, pitch the ideas to the brands or agencies and paid the bloggers per post to flush out their ideas.
Pay-per-post is only successful / economical when the strategy is already developed.
I always say that three things need to be true before paying for PR:
1) That your product is 'ready for an audience' - i.e.: it's gone through at least one preliminary beta period and a strong group of your audience has agreed it has changed the way they do business, live their lives, or their perspective.
2) That you're funded or generating a profit - i.e.: it's responsible to spend money on outside consultants. Until then, a bit of WOM marketing, user acquisition growth hacking (pardon the cliché) or PPC should do the trick.
3) That you know your story inside and out. Why is your startup, product or service a NOW idea? Why are YOU the person to be executing? The media will only truly care about a product or service that has a backstory, a mission, a mandate. Keep in mind that the story might have several variations to please a variety of audiences, but that the story should always be authentic.
If the above three (3) items are true, it may be time to start paying for some PR.
A good PR agency or consultant will help translate your story (your why) into tangible media wins. They'll also extend your productivity consistently and enable you to focus on whats most important at the early stages: your product (or service) and your customer.