Unlike the traditional PR ecosystem, let us first establish the difference between digital PR and digital awareness; because we are here today to help you with the latter.

Create Digital Publicity PR for Your Indian Tech Startup - The Times Blog
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Publicity is largely misunderstood as a term within marketers, brand managers, and media planners alike within the emerging technological startup ecosystem. Due to a lack of PR planning in existing distribution strategies, PR mostly stays as a 'buzzword' among company leadership members and those responsible directly for marketing any product. Under such circumstances, two things are likely to happen:

a) The startup in question will hire an overpriced PR agency that does very little to get media coverage for that business, and the little coverage that does result out of such an arrangement, is very less likely to create any tangible impact on the startup's target audience.

b) The startup will add on the responsibility of 'PR Manager' to an existing marketing team member, who, if he or she is lucky, will manage to navigate through a few Facebook comunities (such as this one) and try to scout the web for article opportunities. Some PR managers are also smart enough to employ tools such as HARO, or 'Help-A-Reporter-Out' to find story opportunities and respond to them categorically, but it eventually becomes a chore.

Fact: Most startups in India, will rate their overpriced PR agency or in-house PR team less than 7 out of 10, based on the available output, or ROI.

Create Digital Publicity PR for Your Indian Tech Startup - The Times Blog
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Yes, it is possible to buy native promotional news articles today via online portals such as The Media Ant; However, the projected ROI through such transactions remains both unverified and vague. This, in turn, is because most startups do not offer public access to their analytics dashboard, and you just have to take their word at it. Smart users can use tools such as SimilarWeb.com or SiteWorthTraffic.com to actually see the monthly traffic of any website before making a digital purchase. But most people don't do that either.

When opting for digital awareness modules (while paying for the creation of any content that is supposed to create true awareness about your product), these are the real questions you should be asking:

  1. How much traffic will my article receive when published on your website? (You should always ask the website for the minimum number of assured page views)
  2. What is the type of projected user demographics (City/Gender) for my article?
  3. When will you share the ROI/traffic report for my article, and in what format will you share this report? (Always ask for a publicly verifiable report, such as an untampered Google Analytics snapshot or a guest email address through which you have access to their analytics directly. It is very easy to create a 'claimed' traffic document today - and you as a buyer have no other way of verifying this, especially if you are just relying on the website's overall traffic.)

Most of the so-called 'search traffic' or 'organic traffic' that the most popular online news websites or blogs receive, is dependent on specific keywords and are less likely to churn traffic for your article.

Create Digital Publicity PR for Your Indian Tech Startup - The Times Blog
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I call this phenomenon 'bucket traffic'. You can always go to a website like SimilarWeb or Alexa to find out the top search terms that are driving traffic to any popular website. You will be surprised to note that search terms such as 'best hollywood movies', 'way2sms funding', and 'neerja bhanot' are some of the most popular terms that drive almost 75-90% (variable) of the overall traffic to the most popular Indian startup news websites. Go on, check it for yourself and respond in comments if you find out an anomaly to this.

This means, even if you pay a hefty sum to any of these websites to publish a news article, even though you are confident that it's popular because of the daily number of users, there is a very little chance that you will get any benefit from this organic traffic.

This leads us to ask two more questions during a digital media transaction. Ensure that you have this communication before you decide to pay for online promotional news at all.

  1. What is the time frame during which my article will be visible on your home page? (Always ask for home page visibility, as that's the best shot that your article has, of capturing some of that 'bucket' traffic.)
  2. Can you share a mockup of all the links - text and graphic, which will be present on your website, linking back to my article? (Just like the attention you pay towards any digital creative that supports your ads on Google or Facebook, ensure that you take a look and retain some narrative control over the images or banners that will link to your news article. A lot of times, in order to increase click-through rates blatantly, websites will resort to the use of clickbait which is of little or no use to your target audience; Avoid this trap at all costs.)

Lastly, always opt for a sponsored news article with an organization or publisher that shares editorial narrative control with you.

Create Digital Publicity PR for Your Indian Tech Startup - The Times Blog
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The reason we ask you to do this, is not in order to push a bias within a sponsored story. The thing is, nobody knows your business or service better than you do. So, irrespective of the team of writers or editors commissioned to write your story, you will never be convinced of the right message being put forth to your users unless you have some amount of editorial say too. So yes, it is important to opt for a service that allows you to sign-off on the draft before it gets published.

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