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How My Startup Got International Press Coverage With a £0 Marketing Budget

21/03/2016 13:07 GMT | Updated 20/03/2017 09:12 GMT

The vast majority of start-ups and independent brands are run on extremely limited budgets. Affording essential expenses, such as stock, can even be a recurring issue and any outlay on marketing or advertising is, put simply, an extravagance.

I was able to found my brand, Tom Cridland, thanks to just a £6,000 government startup loan. I ran out of money once I'd developed samples of my products and a website, and the pleasingly high level of organic growth my business has achieved since came after having to launch our ecommerce store with all our products available for pre-order only.

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We are now turning over £500,000 after just two years and we have spent a grand total of £0 on marketing or advertising. What has been the secret to establishing our brand? Public relations.

We didn't even have the budget to take out an ad in our local paper, let alone employ anyone to come up with a marketing strategy and many people reading this will be in exactly the same position. The good news is that you can get international newspapers, magazines, TV and radio to advertise your brand for free. The only catch is that you have to make your business more than just a brand. It has to be a story.

We are turning over £500k after two years and we have spent a grand total of £0 on marketing. What has been the secret to establishing our brand? Public relations.

Forget the beautiful user interface on the new app you've just created. Or the wonderful silk lining on the jackets your womenswear brand is selling. Certainly don't dream of elaborating in detail on the exact time, location and conversation you were having when the idea for your business came to you. Do, on the other, aim be bold and make a statement. Don't be afraid to catch people's attention and don't be worried that your bigger, richer competitors might make achieving coverage difficult for you.

I will be more specific. My brand was (and remains) an ecommerce fashion business specialising in luxury wardrobe staples in unique colours. We had even made trousers for the likes of Daniel Craig, Rod Stewart, Ben Stiller, Frankie Valli, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Stephen Merchant, Toby Hungtinton-Whiteley, the Elton John Band, Nile Rodgers and Jeremy Piven. We had never been featured by any major press, though.

It was having the chance to make some trousers for Leonardo DiCaprio last year that changed everything. It encouraged me to think more about how I could make our brand sustainable and lead to me developing The 30 Year Sweatshirt. This is a sustainable fashion project in the form of a premium organic cotton crewneck backed up with a 30-year guarantee. A sweatshirt that is guaranteed to last for three decades is extremely newsworthy and suddenly everyone from the BBC to NBC to The New York Times to The Telegraph were interested not only in the sweatshirt, but in my journey as an entrepreneur.

It is not the sweatshirt that is the point. Along the way, I have learnt the art of the press pitch and for any entrepreneur that is looking to spread the word about what they do this is one of the two most important promotional tools any small business needs. The other is a decent and comprehensive list of media contacts and a simple Google search can help you obtain something you can, at least, start with.

Be concise and make sure there's not even a single half sentence that doesn't hold information that could potentially be of interest.

If writing is already a talent of yours, you only need to bear a few things in mind. Be concise and make sure there's not even a single half sentence that doesn't hold information that could potentially be of interest. Put yourself in the shoes of the journalist reading your email. If you wanted to cover the story, you would want three or four easy to digest paragraphs covering a few different angles of the story.

Make sure you are sending something that is a story. If what you do is truly unique, make sure this is clear from the get go. If your product is not revolutionary, make sure your experiences as an entrepreneur make for interesting reading. It also well worth reading the news every week and looking for current affairs topics which are relevant to what you do. Follow-up stories are common and journalists might include you in one, if appropriate.

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This is an art, not a science, and if you think it's going to be difficult to get right or simply don't think you've got the time, there's no harm in outsourcing it. When I discovered that securing press was one of my biggest talents, I founded the Tom Cridland Public Relations agency. We launched in November and have fifteen clients on our roster already. Though there are many agencies who will take a monthly fee in exchange for doing nothing, there are plenty of wonderful freelance PRs and boutique agencies, likes ours, who can focus on the all-important task of pitching to the media for you.

It is so easy to be intimidated by the challenge of securing press coverage for your brand. The fact is journalists need stories for their readers so, provided the proper time and effort are put into creating one around what you do, there is no reason why you cannot promote your brand through PR. It will cost you a fraction of what advertising would and be infinitely more effective for you.

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