SaaS businesses have a distinct business model that aims to increase user adoption. A SaaS PR strategy must align with it to ensure that prospects and customers are always in the loop. A great product but a mediocre story will only take a SaaS business so far.
PR is a mass vehicle through which you can build a brand. It’s about using targeted media to which your audience also subscribes or it can be through socials. PR is not just about putting out a funding story—it’s also about the founder’s industry point of view, it’s the countless free calls made by the product team to analyze what’s working and what’s not, and so on and so forth.
– Ashwin Krishna, Global Marketing Director of Tact AI
SaaS businesses tend to focus on lead generation campaigns over PR initiatives. This might not result in a sustainable growth in conversion rate!
If you do not build recall during the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, it becomes challenging to remain top of mind during the consideration or decision stage.
When cloud technology was a novelty, it used to be enough to simply talk about your SaaS business to pique the interest of journalists. Now, with the SaaS industry market size projected to be $280 billion by 2026, only talking about your product features or benefits will not cut it.
That’s where a digital SaaS PR strategy comes in handy. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about digital PR for SaaS.
Chapter 1: A Brief Comparison of Digital PR vs Traditional PR
Before we explore how to create a digital PR strategy for SaaS startups, let’s define what digital PR is and put to rights some misconceptions about it.
Digital PR and traditional PR have a common goal: to earn mind share (increase brand awareness) and wallet share (boost sales).
- Digital PR uses online marketing channels like social media, websites, podcasts, blogs, and videos to build a brand presence and boost visibility. It is aligned with the company’s SEO and link-building efforts.
- Influencer marketing campaigns
- Guest blogging
- Distributing PR stories by email
- Podcast interviews
Buffer’s CEO, Leo Widrich, gained 100,000 users within the first 9 months of launching the app by writing around 150 guest posts.
- Traditional PR uses conventional non-digital print channels like newspapers, magazines, and industry publications and broadcasting channels like television and radio to get brand coverage.
- Arranging interviews on the radio and television
- Mailing press releases to print publications
- Attending industry events and award ceremonies
- Seeking out sponsorship opportunities
HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Conference is a hybrid event aimed at growing the brand’s partnerships and community.
People don’t consume information from a single source. They stay up-to-date on topics of interest through various sources like blogs, social media, podcast, industry publications, and newspapers. Thus, to get your brand in front of more people, your PR strategy should have a mix of traditional and digital PR.
For E.g. you could send potential clients printed materials like pamphlets or brochures and follow up a few days later with an email campaign.
Now, let’s understand the key differences between these two types of PR.
Chapter 2: What PR is not?
Contrary to common perception, PR is NOT:
- (Just) a press release.
If you thought PR stands for “press release,” you’re not alone.
While press releases remain, as the Cision State of the Media 2022 Report says, the “most powerful vehicles for getting your news, story, product, or event in front of the right journalists and helping those journalists generate stories,” there’s more to PR.
The way people consume and engage with information has changed dramatically as digital media has taken hold, and PR encompasses all the ways in which you can disseminate information to your stakeholders.
- Always about selling
PR does not sell directly. Instead, it opens doors to spaces where sales and regulatory discussions take place.
In fact, salespeople depend on the materials developed by PR executives (brochures, websites, flyers) to do their jobs well. They have direct contact with prospects to negotiate a purchase. Salespeople benefit from PR activities like promotional stories, research studies, events, conferences, and customer service programs.
- An overnight process
Chandra Gore, publicist & principal consultant at Chandra Gore Consulting, says, “PR is a marathon, not a sprint. Creating a foundation and implementing a sound PR strategy takes time and focus. You should plan to engage for at least 4 to 12 months to ensure that you can measure the success of your PR campaign.”
PR is not a matter of filling out a form and having editors queuing up to publish your story. It may take over two months to get a story live on a targeted media outlet. The editor could also ask you to re-pitch your story in the next quarter because they could not slot you into their editorial schedule.
- Always sponsored
Earned media, which is mentions or coverage of the brand through word-of-mouth marketing is the most challenging type of PR. It does not involve payment but has to be “earned” by the brand through great customer service.
- Only for temporary traction
PR is not a promotional activity that occurs for a short period like discounts, coupons, or sweepstakes. Promotions like these may sometimes be a part of PR activities like a conference or special event.
- Always about publicity
Publicity and PR cannot be used interchangeably. Publicity refers to factual information aimed at gaining exposure for a brand in the media. Press releases are the most common form of publicity but other methods used to drum up positive coverage are pitch letters, fact sheets, interviews, and staged events.
- A budget-intensive activity
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, says, “PR is the most cost-efficient way to get your story out. If a story about you in the media leads to new customers or shortens your sales cycle, then the cost of hiring a PR firm more than pays for itself pretty quickly. Every time a new article hits, you speak at an event, you get quoted in the media, and there is value in that exposure through instant credibility and third-party validation. It carries a lot more weight than a paid ad. When that exposure gets prospects to reach out, decide quicker, hire you, or buy your products, it more than pays for itself.”
- Done by anyone
PR cannot just be done by a good writer who can draft error-free pieces. Can anybody who plays the piano well conduct an orchestra? Can a computer enthusiast necessarily be a good website developer?
PR requires expertise in communication across different areas: product, technical, corporate, and CEO communication. It also requires a working knowledge of social media channels, external and internal events, and even content marketing.
At Growfusely, we involve content writers, content marketers, account managers, and PR executives to craft a compelling PR story.
- Just guest contributions
Guest posting is one aspect of PR, not the entirety of PR. Writing guest posts is a link-building technique that enables the brand to be viewed as an authority in its industry.
- Aiming to drive the same results as marketing
Marketing aims to sell products and services to the target audience, whereas PR aims to establish mutually advantageous partnerships and branding. PR and marketing may be used together to help a brand grow, but they’re not the same.
Chapter 3: Types of PR
There are three categories of PR: owned, paid, and earned.
Just like digital PR and traditional PR aim to meet the same goals through different approaches, these three types of PR, too, have a unified goal – to create a positive perception of the brand – but execute it differently.
And just like you should use a mix of digital PR and traditional PR in your PR strategy, so should you employ a combination of the three types of PR to maximize reach.
Owned media refers to any content that is created by and belongs to the brand.
- Website copy
- Product pages
- Blog content
- Social media content
- Email newsletters
Your PR activities should first focus on owned media because you have complete control over it. When journalists or customers talk about you (i.e. earned media), they will link to your owned media.
When you pay to promote owned media, it is called paid media. It’s accepted practice to pay to make your content more visible to the right people.
- Social media advertising
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Influencer marketing
- Banner advertisement
Most social media platforms operate on a pay-to-play model for brands. Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2018 that “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.”
The average organic reach rate on Facebook in May 2022 was 2.12%. Thus, you’ll need to invest in Facebook ads to see positive growth.
Earned media refers to the promotion or coverage of your brand through organic means i.e. by word of mouth. It’s the toughest type of PR to acquire, hence the name “earned” media.
- Mentions in third-party review sites
- Organic media coverage
- Social media shoutouts
- High spots in search engine results
People trust coverage in authoritative publications like newspapers and industry journals, hence earned media is most effective at boosting conversions for a brand.
Chapter 4: How to brainstorm story ideas for SaaS PR
It’s high time to move beyond press releases and funding stories about your SaaS startup.
Observe the day-to-day activities at your SaaS business, you’ll find many creative story angles jump out at you.
3 Starting Points to Brainstorm SaaS PR Story Ideas
- Make it funnel-oriented
- Define what you want to convey (news, updates, stories, etc.)
- Understand the product
Take these steps to come up with story ideas:
1. Make it funnel-oriented
Not sure what type of brand story will resonate with your target audience?
Map your buyer’s journey.
This will help you understand what type of messages people want to hear at each stage of the sales funnel. You can also identify the gaps in your brand storytelling.
2. Define your goals
Many SaaS companies aim to get featured in top-tier publications through PR efforts. However, media coverage should not be your end goal.
Getting mentioned in prominent media outlets should lead to more meaningful outcomes like brand awareness (measured with metrics like share of voice), increase in traffic to your website, or revenue growth.
Whatever your goal(s), ensure that it is:
E.g. Undefined objective – “increase sales”
Specific objective – “increase sales by Y% by the end of Q2.”
A few SaaS PR topic ideas you could use:
- Product launch – If you’re launching a new product or service line, you’re expanding your business. Tell the market about your upcoming plans and how they will benefit them.
- Feature/tool update – Your customers will appreciate that you have paid attention to their feedback by rolling out feature/tool updates. The market will also note that you are committed to providing the best experience for your customers.
E.g. Wistia introduced its accessibility feature through a simple email and followed it up with several emails a few months after the feature rollout.
- Industry reports & whitepapers – They are much sought-after by journalists as reliable data sources, and they provide useful insights for your industry.
- Change in leadership – Your investors and stakeholders want to be kept in the loop about essential changes in top management. Create transparency by announcing the entry of new people in important positions.
- Awards and endorsements – If you’ve won an award, it shows that you’re recognized as a top brand in your industry. Spread the word and create a good impression on prospects and customers.
- Newsworthy customer experience – Become a company known for providing a great customer experience by having your customers talk about it.
- Sharing entrepreneurial journey – People love to read about the journey of founders or CEOs as they grow their fledgling SaaS startups, especially if it comes directly from them.
E.g. Slack shared a story about its founder’s entrepreneurial journey that included his failures and how he was determined to deal with them, and also how important it is to treat your employees with respect and empathy.
3. Get an understanding of the product
Conduct competitive analysis to understand how you can define your SaaS product. You should be able to clearly state what your product does, how it’s different from others, and where its offering fits into the current industry landscape.
This will help you craft a tailored PR story that will grab people’s attention.
It will also help you promptly respond to journalist requests through HARO which tend to be long questionnaires. If your knowledge of the product is poor, you’ll waste time going back and forth between the SaaS expert and the journalist—and end up annoying them.
Chapter 5: Digital PR strategies for SaaS startups
Digital PR transforms static, one-way messaging into vibrant, two-way conversations. It helps clarify your brand focus and spread news and information widely and quickly by leveraging content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, and influencer outreach.
The possibilities for online promotion are endless but we’ll look at some notable strategies you can employ:
1. Outreach, outreach, and well…a little more outreach
Pitch relentlessly (but strategically).
Pitching to journalists, bloggers, and influencers will ensure that you get some press coverage, brand mentions, and exposure for your business.
SaaS brands aim to get featured in large media publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, Business Insider, and Forbes.
Such media coverage can cause a significant increase in product signups and revenue.
When done right, outreach can bring the following benefits:
- Backlinks from high-authority websites
- Featuring as a guest on industry-relevant podcasts and interviews
- Writing guest posts for popular publications and media sites
- Organic brand mentions in trustworthy publications like magazines, newspapers, and journals.
For instance, Venngage used the following outreach email to get backlinks from high-authority sites like Adweek and HubSpot:
They offered a free, professionally-created infographic to some carefully curated marketing sites with a request to place a “Created with Venngage” caption that linked back to their website.
Who would refuse such an offer?
2. Schedule and publish interviews (audio/video)
A B2B audience always enjoys interviews with industry leaders and it’s a good way to get your brand name in front of more people alongside offering premium information that cannot be had elsewhere. Interviews may be written content, podcasts, or videos.
Domo, a BI platform, published a Curiosity Video Series, wherein it interviewed 16 experts on 8 topics around curiosity and data to demonstrate how data can be used differently.
3. Outreach to influencers (Hint: YouTube is a great start.)
Build relationships with influencers before they’ve even done anything for you by featuring them in your content. Share their work on your platforms or give them a shoutout. Once you’re no longer a stranger to them, begin your SaaS PR outreach.
For a SaaS startup, the ideal influencer will have these qualities:
- At least 1,000-1,500 followers (micro-influencers)
- Shares your target audience, is familiar with your niche, and is considered an expert/thought leader in your sub-industry
- Is active on the platform and engages with their followers
- Receives healthy engagement from their followers
YouTube is the second-most popular platform for influencer marketing so either search for influencers manually or use tools like Grin, Klear, and Upfluence. Check out the “About” section to determine fit.
For instance, Okta turned toward its customers for B2B influencer marketing. In this YouTube video, they had the CEO of Kensho explaining how Okta helped it provide its clients with strong security and an excellent customer experience.
4. Leverage social media platforms
Use social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to announce important company news like funding rounds, product launches, or M&As.
Don’t just publish links to your press releases. Consider formatting your post like this:
- Present the key information in your announcement as bullet points.
- Add a summary of the main points of your news piece.
- Create infographics or images about your announcement.
5. Partner with niche podcast hosts to talk about the product
Partnering with podcast hosts in your niche/sub-industry boosts your credibility, establishes you as a thought leader, enables you to reach audiences hooked to podcasts, and attracts prospects authentically.
For instance, Zuora, a subscription management platform, partnered with Blackberry’s Connected Vehicle Podcast to discuss the implications of the subscription economy on the auto experience.
6. Participate in relevant industry events and spread the word about them
Showing up at relevant B2B SaaS industry events—as a speaker or participant—is a PR strategy that boosts your brand-building efforts, strengthens your professional network, improves client relationships, and accelerates demand generation.
Noteworthy SaaS and tech events are:
- TechCrunch Disrupt
- Ascent Conference
- SaaStock EMEA
- SaaS North Now
C-suite executives of top SaaS companies like HubSpot, Gusto, Atlassian, and Cloudflare will be speaking at the 2022 SaaStr Annual, a not-to-be-missed SaaS industry event. Such spaces bring together industry leaders, revenue leaders, and product leaders to share insights and network with peers.
7. Sponsor an event and excessively spread the word about it
Event sponsorships allow SaaS companies to get four clear benefits:
- Brand awareness – getting your name and ideas in front of more people
- Attracting new customers
- Building relationships with existing customers
- Having a finger on the pulse of the market
Veracode, an application security testing solution, sponsored Tech Tackles Cancer to support pediatric cancer treatment and, in the process, build goodwill for itself in the tech community.
8. Be smart with PR stunts to acquire unmatchable notice in the market
PR stunts are well-planned events aimed at raising awareness about your product.
LeadSquared pulled off a PR stunt piggybacking on the viral “pawri ho rahi hai” trend to announce its hiring requirements. It elevated a run-of-the-mill “we are hiring!” message to a viral post that maximized its reach.
9. Use bad reviews and backlash from customers to create stories
According to TrustRadius, B2B reviews have a strong influence on buyers. Bad reviews are also communicated more often (49%) on social media than good reviews (38%). Online review sites like Trustpilot see a similar trend (46% for bad reviews vs. 27% for good reviews).
Embrace the bad reviews because it enhances your authenticity and brings an opportunity from the right source to improve your product. Plus, they also give a potential story idea.
- Promote your brand as a problem solver. Fix the mistake and broadcast how you acted upon customer feedback.
- Respond to backlash quickly with your side of the story. You can prevent further damage or even win over the customer.
- Even failures can show your SaaS company in an authentic and honest light. SaaS PR is not all positive.
James Pollard from The Advisor Coach says, “I make content out of them [negative reviews]. For example, if I get an email from a customer complaining about something, I will copy and paste it and send it out to my email list. I will often joke about it and it almost always leads to more sales. Like I said, customers understand that there are some bad apples out there who will always complain. The key is to take the negative review and turn it into a reason to buy. For example, if someone complains about how long your product takes to ship, you can turn that into a reason to buy (i.e. it’s worth the wait). You can tell your customers up front that if they aren’t willing to wait, then your product is not for them and they shouldn’t buy.”
Set up Google Alerts for your brand name to monitor brand mentions and respond promptly. For social media, use tools like Sprout Social, BuzzSumo, and Keyhole.
10. Get a mention inside listicles and resource pages
You can get the most backlinks out of listicles and resource pages as compared to other types of content. Through a basic Google search like “best [niche] apps” or “[niche] apps,” you can narrow down a list of posts that you’d like to be mentioned in.
You could also run a negative search parameter like “best [niche] apps – [your SaaS product name].
Brand mentions in such posts drive indirect organic traffic and referral traffic to your site.
11. Acquire unlinked mentions
Unlinked brand mentions are references to your brand (name of SaaS product, CEO, or brand) that do not link back to your site. It’s a missed opportunity to garner some brand visibility.
- Use media monitoring tools like Brand24, PRWeb, and Muck Rack to find mentions of your brand.
- Use an SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to find the website authority and other metrics like the number of backlinks, organic traffic, domain rating, and URL rating.
- Find the contact information of the website owner or the author of the article.
- Send an outreach email requesting a backlink and provide something of mutual value.
Here’s an example of an outreach email that Ahrefs sent to storehacks.com requesting a backlink:
12. Win awards
Consider applying for SaaS awards to showcase your company culture:
- Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For
- Inc. Best Workplaces Award
- Top Workplaces
- Fast Company’s Best Workplaces for Innovators
Such a strategy ensures quick link acquisition because editors have a timeline to adhere to. They need to shortlist nominees and announce the recipient of the award.
When an award is announced, the publication shares every nominee’s bio which is great for increasing brand awareness.
Awards increase credibility and the boost in public exposure can lead to new business and revenue growth.
13. Use the right tools
Among the hundreds of digital PR tools available, some of the best are:
- Business Wire – press release distribution, online newsrooms, interactive media
- BuzzStream – automatic list building, content promotion
- BuzzSumo – backlink monitoring, influencer discovery
- Cision – list building, pitch distribution, social media management
- Critical Mention – media monitoring
- HARO – quote sourcing
- Muck Rack – media contact information
- Meltwater – media relations, PR reporting, newswire distribution
- Prowly – media relations
- SEMrush – SEO, PPC, content marketing
14. Volunteer as a webinar moderator
On average, 55% of registrants convert to attendees for webinars. Many choose to watch the recording later at a more convenient time which they can access from the host’s site. Thus, you get a lot of continuing exposure as the moderator—months and years after it was held.
In addition, the panel of experts on the webinar get acquainted with you leading to an excellent networking opportunity.
Chapter 6: How to pitch PR stories to editors
A PR pitch is a short (~150 words), personalized, engaging, and timely message that talks about the value of a story and why the editor should publish it.
A 2019 Fractl survey shows that staff editors receive around 53 pitches per day so you shouldn’t adopt a “spray and pray” approach and expect it to yield results.
Strikingly, 54% of email pitches are not opened at all.
Media relations is a core part of SaaS PR and you must be aware of pitching do’s and don’ts:
Find relevant platforms
To find which media platforms can give you the most relevant coverage, identify which sectors your business is related to, such as startups, SaaS, technology, financial services, and so on.
Journalists usually work on different “beats” or specialized reporting areas:
- Target market – e.g. small businesses, ecommerce stores
- Business size – e.g. startups, large companies
- Problem – What problem does your SaaS business solve?
- Technology – Do you use specific technology like augmented reality or AI?
- Platform – Does your business cater to a specific platform like iOS or Android?
- Competitors – Has the journalist written about your competitors?
They have a good understanding of the niche, experience, and a good network of contacts.
- Find media outlets using keywords like [niche] + blog or [niche] + news.
- Or you can type your keyword in the search field and look at the results in the “news” tab.
- Use advanced search operators like “inURL,” “intitle,” and “intext” to fine-tune your search.
E.g. If you’re looking for journalists who write about email marketing, you could input: “email marketing news.”
Seek their contact details
Create a list of journalists working at the media platforms you have identified.
You can do this in three ways:
1. Manually search for journalists
Continuing from the previous example, say we click on the third result – Business News Daily. We find the name of the journalist—Sean Peek—who is a contributing writer.
His bio (at the bottom of the article) tells us that he has written “more than 100 B2B-focused articles.” Hence, he’s a good candidate to pitch.
If we click the “Related Articles” section on this page, we find more journalists who write about email marketing.
Create a spreadsheet to capture the names of the journalists and the publications they write for. It may be a slow and tedious process but it is free and prevents the addition of incorrect leads.
To find email addresses in minutes, we’ve published a detailed guide exclusively for the same.
2. Use a PR outreach tool
If you have the budget, invest in PR outreach tools like Prowly, JustReachOut, Respona, and MagicPR.
Such tools not only help you find relevant journalists and media outlets, but also:
- help you send email pitches
- provide analytics to see how your PR campaigns are performing
- tell you how many of your pitches are being opened
- flag pitches due for follow-ups
3. Study your competitors’ links
If you have established competitors who receive a lot of media attention, you can identify journalists who have linked to them or mentioned them in their pieces.
- You can use a backlink research tool like Ubersuggest, CognitiveSEO, or Ahrefs to hunt through backlinks and find relevant media platforms.
- Or you could manually search on Google using this query:
[competitor] -site:[competitor’s domain name] + intitle: news/blog
E.g. searching for Zendesk brings these results:
We find media publications like TechCrunch, Computer World, Business Insider, and The Register. We can pitch to some of these outlets, which are more likely to accept because they’ve covered our competitor.
How do you find the email addresses of the identified journalists?
- Check the website of the media outlet they write for.
- Check their socials.
- Check media databases like Prowly or JustReachOut.
- Use email finder tools like Hunter and Voila Norbert.
Ensure that you use a direct email instead of a generic one like “staffwriter@ABC.com.”
Get in touch with them
After your list of contacts is ready, get in touch with the journalists either through a quick phone call or a short email introducing your SaaS business and its focus area(s).
The idea is to present oneself as a valuable resource, not sound sales-y.
Touching base like this helps in two ways:
- You can verify the name, contact details, and area of expertise (beat) of the journalist.
- You can find out more about the journalist’s topics of interest and whether you can contribute to it.
Be patient in expecting responses
Respect the journalist’s time and their right to decide if your pitch is newsworthy. Instead of following up right away, allow them a few days to read your email pitch.
Don’t call to follow up on pitches!
55% of journalists feel that one follow-up is enough, whereas 31% of journalists would rather not deal with follow-ups at all.
If you haven’t received a response after following up, know that either your pitch is irrelevant or the journalist did not have time to look at it.
Pitch your ideas
A good pitch talks about the brand story in such a way that it is relevant to the journalist’s audience. It should be brief, 200-300 words, and outline the newsworthy aspects of the story as well as the emotional points.
To be deemed valuable, your content should be timely, newsworthy, and credible.
What makes a story newsworthy?
- Timeliness: The fresher the news, the better it is. Events in the SaaS space (new funding rounds, new startups, and new innovations) are happening rapidly due to ever-evolving technical advancements so pitch content before it becomes out-of-date.
- Proximity: People are more interested in what’s happening nearby than in far-off locations. Match your pitch with the locations covered by the journalist.
- Impact/Consequences: Does your pitch pass the “so what” test? SaaS news used to be important when the industry was new; now—not so much.
- Novelty/Rarity: Is the story you’re pitching offering something new for the journalist’s audience? Offer them a “scoop,” or an exclusive news story such as early access to insights from original research.
- Conflict: PR doesn’t have to be all positive. Learn to turn some negative news into stories that humanize your brand. Without some conflict, news pieces don’t attract as much attention.
- Human Interest: Does your story appeal to human emotions? If all you’re pitching is a dry press release, you can expect to be rejected.
- Prominence: Stories about famous people/companies sell better than ordinary people. Feature B2B influencers in your PR stories to reach their followers and build a larger network together.
Cision’s 2022 State of the Media report asked journalists how they wanted to be pitched.
- Personalize your pitch. Do the legwork to understand their target audience and the topics they cover.
- Get to the point fast. Your message should be brief and clear.
- Be direct and dispense with the clickbait titles. Don’t waffle and don’t use fake familiarity.
Before You Pitch Checklist
1. Google the journalists to know which media outlets they write for, what topics they cover, what their social media handles are, and how they prefer to be pitched.
2. Familiarize yourself with their past work. It will give you an idea of what type of stories they’re most likely to accept.
3. Study their editorial calendars to understand what types of stories they’re planning to cover and where your pitch can fit in.
4. Check out their socials to understand what they post and what types of content they engage with. This will tell you more about their topics of interest.
5. Pay attention to the location of the journalist and ensure your pitch is relevant to it.
6. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the days favorable for sending pitches.
7. 68% of journalists prefer to receive pitches between 5 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST.
Assist them wherever possible
63% of journalists said that they wanted PR professionals to understand their target audience and send relevant pitches.
Other ways in which you can help:
- Respond promptly to journalists’ requests for data and expert sources. They’re often constrained by time.
- Provide journalists with a list of upcoming PR stories that you have planned. It will help them schedule it in their editorial calendar.
- Send short and to-the-point pitches that help journalists quickly decide if it is right for their audience.
Use HARO, SourceBottle, and more
Source expert quotes for your story through platforms like HARO (Help a Reporter Out), SourceBottle, and Terkel.
This is what a HARO source request looks like:
Now let’s see how you should craft a PR story that will entice journalists.
Chapter 7: How to write a PR story to resonate with customers
A compelling PR story doesn’t always have to be a press release. It can take the form of social media posts, thought leadership pieces, newsletters, or even a podcast.
Here are some elements that will elevate your PR narrative:
Speak the buyers’ language
Forrester recently reported that customer-centered messaging motivates B2B buyers to take action and boosts revenue.
Avoid the “curse of knowledge” by assuming that your audience has the same level of expertise and insight into your industry or SaaS product as you do.
Use clear, straightforward language.
Stick to the stage of the funnel
Understand your ICPs to determine how to craft a story that either attracts, engages, converts, or retains them. Take guidance from historical customer data or align your story with the direction your SaaS company wants to take.
Study your buyer personas and answer these questions:
- Where are your buyers in their journey?
- How can your SaaS company help them in that stage of their journey?
Always strive to overdeliver value
Instead of focusing on your product or its features, think about what you can do for your audience?
Write from that point of view to better communicate the value of your offerings.
Understand users’ pain points
How can you solve a common problem your customers have?
How do you make them feel like they’re getting something worthwhile out of being loyal to your SaaS business?
Talk about how your SaaS product helps them overcome their pain points.
Determine the publication’s reach and audience
Use tools like Hotjar, Similarweb, and BuzzSumo to analyze the reach and audience behavior of the publications you’re targeting. It will give you an indication of the type of stories you should pitch to the editors of those publications.
Keep in mind here that your story must cater to two types of audiences:
- The journalist – it should align to his/her interests and expertise
- The publication’s audience – it should align to the message the publication wants to send to its audience
Start with an outline
Your PR story should have a structure:
Scenario > Problem > Solution > Resources
- Scenario: Provide the context of your story. Who is your brand’s hero? What conflict are you resolving?
- Problem: What is wrong with the scenario you laid out? Where’s the conflict?
- Solution: How can your brand solve the problem? How can it address user pain points?
- Resources: Provide inputs/quotes by founders/C-suite executives on the story.
Storify your message
Storytelling is the lifeblood of SaaS PR. Even if you feel like your story is boring, find a way to tell it such that it appeals to the audience.
Give your copy a personality
PR stories are not marketing materials, sales pitches, or ads. Your copy should reflect your brand’s personality instead of sounding like a salesman.
The more attractive your brand personality is, the more likely that people will recommend you to friends and family i.e. word of mouth marketing.
Answer any questions the journalist may have about your story. Know your SaaS product and company inside out.
That’s not going to help you get your story published.
Keep it simple
Don’t complicate your story with tech jargon that the media outlet’s audience will not find relatable. Journalists are an overworked lot, and they want you to make their lives easier by being brief and clear.
Be quirky but wise with words
Study the style and language of the pieces published by the outlet you’re targeting and mirror it as closely as possible. When the journalist doesn’t have to edit every word of what you’ve written, your story is more likely to be published.
Don’t forget to add relevant keywords
Optimize your PR story for search engines by adding relevant keywords. Apart from brand awareness, you’re also looking for online visibility.
Highlight solutions your SaaS resolves
SaaS thought leadership articles that demonstrate how the platform solves real-world problems are highly effective. Thought leadership PR campaigns should fit in with the news agenda.
Case study of Recruitee’s PR strategy
Recruitee, a talent acquisition platform, acquired big-name customers like Starbucks, Vice, and Toyota. They realized that they could establish themselves as thought leaders in the HR industry so they developed a PR strategy in collaboration with a PR agency.
How was Recruitee different?
- They solved issues like unconscious bias and organization in collaborative hiring.
- They were a completely self-funded scaleup—unique in the HR space.
They created three types of stories to pitch to media publications:
Story #1: the different steps startups can take to become self-funded
It was pitched exclusively to tier-1 media publications and featured in Fast Company and EU Startups.
Story #2: how companies could attract talent in a candidate-driven market
Recruitee had gained major clients because it was able to solve this problem. In the context of unemployment rates being low in the US, it pitched this story to relevant publications. HR Technologist, Online Recruitment Magazine, Real Business, and other publications featured this story.
Story #3: Global hiring freeze
Recruitee adopted newsjacking to provide inputs to journalists about the hiring freeze worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, they were featured in HRNews, ITProPortal, and HR Daily Advisor among others.
Thus, with three press stories, Recruitee was featured in 400 publications!
Chapter 8: How to distribute PR stories
You cannot rely solely on a media outlet’s organic distribution because there’s too much clutter in the news space. When you have put in the work to create a high-quality PR story, you must also make efforts to ensure maximum people see it.
A PR distribution plan will give you the best results in terms of overall brand visibility, reach, and audience engagement.
Consider the example of Drift, a revenue acceleration and conversational marketing platform that has chosen a human-focused PR strategy. It distributes its PR messages through the following channels:
- A weekly podcast that talks about internal team functions, issues, and successes
- Talking about employee experiences on social media
- Publishing interviews with Executive Chairman David Cancel and other top executives
- Drift in Action, a monthly live product demo
- Inside Drift, a feature that highlights an employee in a Q&A format
Here are some SaaS PR distribution channels you can use:
SEO (always works like a charm)
Incorporating SEO in PR stories ensures better organic search rankings and, in turn, greater traffic to the brand’s site. It’s an underrated but highly effective distribution tactic.
- Consider using keywords related to current events, trending topics, or news.
- Use branded keywords that contain your trademarked words/phrases or your tagline.
When researching keywords, think in terms of what people are searching for and how it can capture their attention.
People don’t just go to social media for personal networking, they also go to consume news and knowledge.
You need to understand how the algorithms work and employ a mix of organic and paid promotions to get your brand noticed. You’ll also work in collaboration with your digital and paid media teams since they will be the ones driving social distribution.
Notice how LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter take the top three spots in B2B content distribution channels. These are the platforms you should focus on to disseminate your PR stories, too.
Influencer marketing gives you validation along with a wider reach and visibility. It can be implemented alongside organic social media distribution and paid ads.
Owned media is an important PR channel because your email subscribers are already familiar with your brand. They now want to know what’s new, trending, or upcoming.
You can build a dedicated email campaign around sharing your strongest results with your email subscribers.
Take a look at this email newsletter from Airtable providing an update about a new feature:
As we’ve mentioned previously, social media channels restrict organic reach because they work on the pay-and-play concept. Thus, you need to invest in paid ads to promote your PR stories on Facebook and Linkedin.
Paid media may be in the form of sponsored content on social media or native advertising.
Have you noticed how LinkedIn and Facebook are the top B2B channels for paid ads as well?
HotJar’s Lighting Talks webinars are free periodic events wherein experts talk about a specific topic like UX, website architecture, and design experimentation for five minutes using no more than five slides.
Super Listeners 2021 revealed that 74% of people visit a company’s website and 72% of people consider a new product or service after hearing about it on a podcast.
That’s a huge opportunity to get the word out about your SaaS company!
Distribute your PR story through podcasts or audio interviews using Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts.
The goal is not to use as many distribution channels as possible but to use all the channels that are right for your target audience.
Chapter 9: How to measure PR ROI
It’s not always possible to have a tangible number of PR campaigns. But SaaS companies can track KPIs to measure the impact of PR stories in terms of an increase in user engagement on the website, social media, communication, and so on.
These engagement metrics hint that the user is moving to the next stage of the buyer’s funnel.
Compare new subscriber count before and after executing PR campaigns
How many new subscribers did you add after the PR campaign? It should give you an idea of whether PR is working for you.
Track website traffic
Track unique visitors and unique page views to determine the success of your PR campaign. With Google Analytics, you can check for spikes in referral traffic and organic homepage traffic. Any conversions associated with that traffic can be considered accurate results.
Keep a close watch on the visitor’s journey on the page
Google Analytics gives you an accurate picture of the visitor journey on your website:
- Unique visitors – how many people arrived at your page
- Traffic source – did people find your content from search, email, or social media
- Session duration – how long did people stay on the page
- Bounce rate – how many people left your site after viewing one page
Track conversion rate (eBook downloads, webinar registrations, and so on)
An increase in the desired conversions i.e. content asset downloads, email open/click rates, or webinar registrations demonstrates that people are interested in your updates.
Track social media follower count
Increases in social media followers are related to increases in share of voice. SoV is a valuable metric to determine PR success that indicates your authority and how authentic your relationships are with your customers.
Track how many demo bookings got scheduled
Compare how many product demos are being booked immediately after the PR campaign as compared to before. An uptick in this number should tell you that your PR stories have generated interest among your target audience.
Observe social media engagement
62% of journalists tracked how many times their stories were shared on social media. This shows that they depend on social media to boost the reach of their content and demonstrate their own value to their media outlet.
You can also observe social media engagement metrics such as likes, shares, and comments to measure the success of a PR story. These social metrics can be tracked through the native analytics provided by each platform.
E.g. Twitter offers metrics like tweet impressions, profile visits, mentions, followers, top tweet of the month, and top mention of the month.
Chapter 10: How to level up your PR game
Once you have mastered the basics of SaaS PR, it is time to take it up a notch. Here’s how:
Create new stories from existing published ones
Mine the original data and research reports produced by your brand to create new PR stories. Journalists prefer data-driven pitches over general ones, and if you can pull out trends based on your anonymized data or commissioned research, you can hook their interest.
Pitch to top-tier platforms
Pitch your timely and unique stories to top media outlets like VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Business Insider, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur to raise your PR efforts a notch.
Use published stories as proof of work
Case studies are credible and engaging content and help you demonstrate that your SaaS company has enabled a customer’s transition from outdated software to cloud technology. PR stories that serve as proof of work are compelling ways to showcase the impact of your brand.
Frame real-life success stories to appeal to people who may not be well-versed in cloud technology.
Try more PR angles
SaaS brands often operate across different industries, which is an opportunity for you to attempt various PR story angles. Do your due diligence and increase your outreach for maximum media coverage.
This TechCrunch article talks about SaaS companies setting up their own media arms because they want to produce richer content. It shows how SaaS companies are exploring new ways to improve the quality of their content.
Nurture relations with PR publications
Build relationships with editors, journalists, and industry bloggers who may publish or share your content once they know who you are and what value you can offer to their audiences.
Use this 3-step media pitching checklist:
- Conduct research to discover industry trends and competitors, collect data, find relevant current news events, and understand what newsworthy story angles you have.
- Create a structure for your pitch. Select a newsworthy pitch, write an eye-catching subject line, frame the body as context > problem > solution, and don’t give away the full story.
- Create media lists. Use media-specific nurturing and discovery tools to find journalists, categorize media outlets, and start sending check-in emails. Offer exclusive pitches to strengthen your relationship with your target publications.
PR outreach emails can be of several types. One of them is the “spelling mistake email,” where you try to be helpful (not condescending) by pointing out a typo in an article.
Other types of outreach emails could offer a helpful article, share digital assets like infographics and ebooks, or just check in to say that you have something interesting coming up for the journalist.
SaaS companies that want to stand out from the crowd must invest in a sound PR strategy. Highlight your USP, explore the various verticals wherein your expertise lies, and demonstrate credibility with success stories.
Think from the perspective of the buyer, simplify your value proposition for both your audiences (journalists and prospects), and map your brand’s messaging with the buyer’s journey.
FAQ – SaaS PR
1. What is a PR campaign?
A PR campaign is a combination of planned activities that have a specific purpose and are working toward specific goals.
2. How to evaluate a PR campaign?
PR campaigns can be evaluated by:
- Tracking the number of website visitors
- Tracking the change in domain authority
- Tracking engagement metrics
- Tracking the number of media articles secured in publications
- Tracking the increase in sales right after a PR campaign
- Tracking brand mentions online and on social media
3. How much does a PR campaign cost?
The average cost of digital PR campaigns is $3,000 – $5,000 per month.
4. How to create a PR campaign?
The steps to create a PR campaign are:
- Identify your objective(s) using the SMART method.
- Choose your target audience.
- Brainstorm PR campaign ideas.
- Collect market intelligence.
- Identify your PR distribution channels.
- Send media pitches to chosen journalists.
- Follow-up on your pitches.
- Evaluate the outcomes of the PR campaign.
5. How to start a PR campaign?
Remember the steps of a PR campaign using the acronym R.A.C.E:
R – Research
A – Action and planning
C – Communication and relationship nurturing
E – Evaluation
Start by creating positive relationships with journalists with whom you want to collaborate. Establish a two-way email communication where you check in, introduce yourself, and talk about the value you can offer to the publication’s audience.
6. What makes a good PR campaign?
The elements of a good PR campaign are:
- It has a clear objective.
- It has a clear message that triggers the audience to take action.
- It is meant for a target audience, and not the general public.
7. How to measure PR campaign success?
You can measure the success of your PR campaign using these metrics:
- Number of press clippings about your brand
- Social media reach and engagement
- Impact on sales figures
- Website traffic
- Brand mentions
- Website backlinks
8. At what stage of a PR campaign should evaluation be conducted?
Evaluation is conducted both prior to the PR campaign and after it.
- Before the campaign, a market survey identifies the existing brand perception.
- After the campaign, another survey determines how successful the PR campaign was.
9. What are PR campaign examples?
Some B2B PR campaign examples are:
- Tiny, an ERP for micro and small businesses sent well-written, thoroughly researched press releases supported by a strong distribution strategy.
- Qlik, a business intelligence platform, rolled out The Human Impact of Data Literacy campaign to educate business leaders about the impact of a data-driven culture on overall wellbeing and productivity. The campaign bagged 200 items of media coverage, and 16K page views through media partnerships with The Guardian and The Telegraph.
10. What are some elements of a PR campaign?
The three key elements of a PR campaign are campaign objectives, target audience, and core messaging.
11. How to write a PR campaign plan?
You can develop a PR campaign plan in six steps:
- Define your objective(s).
- Set clear goals using the SMART method.
- Determine your target market.
- Conduct research to find opportunities to disseminate your message.
- Create a schedule for your PR campaign that includes follow-up actions and social media activity.
- Measure your progress with metrics like lead acquisition and conversion, product signups, additional media inquiries, and sales figures.
12. How do you measure the results of a PR campaign?
You measure the results of a PR campaign by media impressions, content analysis, press clippings, lead sourcing, website traffic, social media mentions, and market surveys.
Image Sources – Marketoonist, Twitter, Digital Marketer, Get Your SaaS on Board, Ahrefs, Propel, Prowly, Cision, Muck Rack, HubSpot, B2B Content Marketing Insights 2022, AdChief, Super Listeners Study 2021, Brandwatch, JustReachOut
Vikrant Jhala is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Growfusely – a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He loves to research, develop and populate content. He has a keen interest in photography, eCommerce, and emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence. Connect with him on LinkedIn: @vikrantjhala.