Here’s a story you probably haven’t heard. Beginning in September of 1961 and ending in June of 1976 are what came to be known as the Cod Wars between the UK and Iceland. (Yes, there’s no L in there – cod as in the fish.)

British ships were fishing in Icelandic waters. The Icelandic government asked them to stop, as they were disrespecting international waters. British ships refused.

Having no navy to enforce the request, the Icelandic Coast Guards took matters into their own hands. They cut the nets of all British ships that refused to leave their waters – leaving the British cod-less. Not one to back down, the UK sent their Navy on several occasions to ensure the fishing economy was in good health.

Finally, Iceland had made so much noise about this disrespect of international borders that the rest of the world, including NATO, was watching and the British were forced to accept defeat, and the border lines.

On top of being a great David and Goliath story, there is another lesson to be learned and as it happens, that lesson is related to getting press as a smaller company and it is:

Use the resources you have

As a smaller company, you might not have a fancy PR firm or an expensive tool that calculates reach, but don’t let that stop you. While in Iceland their tools were for cutting fish nets, yours are for sharing your story, here’s how:

Provide value

Reporters write about what will get them the most attention. Think you have that story? Make sure you’re really giving something to their readers – not just talking about yourself. Even better if you can give a specific reporter an exclusive piece.

Tell your story

You can use social media to tell the story of why the media should care about changes to your company during an announcement or press push. Even when you aren’t making an announcement, you can use social media to tell your company’s story.

Your story has a few parts to it.

  • How your company was started
  • How you got to where you are today
  • What you are doing today
  • What you plan on doing in the future
  • And why all of this should matter to people

Here are a couple of story versions:

Hero vs. Villain: You’re the hero defeating a villain. The villain is a problem that your users have.

Underdog: You’re the underdog going up against larger corporations but you’re going to win because…

Challenge: You faced a challenge and solved it and now you’re sharing the solution for the greater good

Passion: Your startup is a passion of yours because…

Did you start a bakery after accidentally making the best cookies ever? Did you build an app for yourself and your friends and then it caught on? Tell your story on social media (and the press / about page of your website) for reporters to find and learn more about you.

Create relationships

Public relations is, you guessed it, about relationships. This isn’t the only factor but it definitely plays in.

When startups hire PR agencies, a lot of the time it’s because those agencies have relationships that they don’t.

How do you build relationships with the media?

The same way any other connection. Start talking to them. First, you should narrow down on the reporters who would be the most likely to cover your story. Then you can start interacting with them. Reply to their tweets. Send them an email about their latest article. Subscribe to their newsletter (a lot of reporters have their own websites for sharing articles.) Sooner or later, they’ll remember your name.

Finally, don’t give up.

If Iceland can kick the British out of their waters, your startup can get noticed in a crowded online space.

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