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Tech startups turn to digital PR platform for media exposure

Digital PR platform Newspage helps early-stage tech startups with limited resources increase their visibility to journalists and news organisations

Early-stage technology startups in the UK are using digital public relations (PR) platform Newspage to help increase media visibility and secure further funding.

Conceived during the UK’s first national lockdown, Newspage enables startups to create and disseminate their own publicity without the involvement of expensive PR agencies whose costs are prohibitive to many early-stage startups.

While Newspage is designed for use by any small businesses operating in the UK, the latest vertical its founders are targeting is technology startups.

“I’ve worked with tons of tech startups that are bootstrapping and have hardly any cash – they come to see PR agencies, it’s £1,000 a day or even £500 a day, but its beyond their budget. Until they get an angel investment or VC [venture capital] backing, they’re off the radar,” said co-founder Dominic Hiatt.

“You can have a really interesting story without £10m of VC money behind you. There are countless ways to grow and you could have a really interesting business model, or a really interesting new app, but if you have no angel funding, nobody’s interested in you – and that just doesn’t seem right.”

He added that the underlying concept of Newspage is to be a “port” for connecting media and news organisations with stories that would otherwise be difficult to find, and that for startups themselves the platform can help them raise money through increased visibility.

“We all know how it works – investors see you on the BBC, or in the Times, the Telegraph, and it creates credibility and helps...to raise money,” said Hiatt.

While UK tech firms saw record levels of investment in 2020 after collectively raising $15bn, a significant portion of this money ($3.5bn, or around 20%) went to just 10 scaleup firms – eight of which are based in London.

In March 2021, UK business creation figures also showed that a new technology business was created every half an hour during 2020, with nearly 19,500 registering in total across the UK.

With so much funding and investment tied up in just a handful of firms, Newspage therefore allows less established startups to generate publicity without sacrificing already limited resources.

According to Newspage user Ross Boyd, founder of digital mortgage switching service Dashly, the platform allows companies to create a profile page as they would when using services such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

“Just add your company information and experts, files and jpegs the media may find handy, and off you go. It’s all very intuitive,” said Boyd, adding that Dashly has seen “countless pieces of national and trade media coverage through this year” as a result of using Newspage.

“Newspage is a breath of fresh air when you think of the prices some PR agencies charge, and the retainers they tie you into. Having a Newspage doesn’t mean you may not need other PR support, but it’s a great base camp and a no-brainer,” he said.

“Getting into the mainstream media is always great when it comes to securing investment. It adds instant credibility to your startup and can even impact your valuation.”

Mark Williams, founder of London-based IT specialist Pensar, said that his firm turned to Newspage after looking for ways to increase its digital footprint in previously unexplored ways such as PR.

“Traditional PR agencies come with big price tags and uncertain return on investment,” he said. “As a result of being a Newspage user, we’ve had more coverage than we could have previously imagined and in publications and websites with audiences that we would never have been able to reach.”

Williams added that Pensar has previously tried PR agencies, but “gave up due to the cost and lack of return”.

Once a startup has created a profile, they can then add searchable tags for their areas of expertise so that the Newspage system can send them an email alert when a story related to their fields breaks.

“If you're an AI [artificial intelligence] tech startup, you would put AI as one of your areas of expertise and that way when a story relating to AI comes breaks, we will basically ping our database; if you’re tagged with AI, you will receive an email alert saying, ‘A journalist at the Times is looking for AI experts to comment on X, Y and Z’,” said Hiatt.

“For journalists, the idea over time is as we get volume, this will become a quite powerful tool because they can basically create highly targeted requests.”

Although journalists currently have to go to Newspage directly to make requests, the firm is creating a user interface to streamline the process and essentially make it “self-serve”.

While Newspage is a free service, and is expected to remain that way, startups can also pay a premium subscription of £4.99 a month, which gives them access to Newspage’s copy editors as well as journalists to provide feedback on the stories they are trying to boost.

Boyd said the NewsScore feature, which essentially tells firms whether a story they have posted is “a goer with the media or a dud”, can also save startups a lot of money. “A standard PR agency will often tell you a story is a goer even if it’s not,” he said.

Hiatt added that while the premium subscription is the main way in which Newspage is monetising its services, it is predicting it to go a similar way to LinkedIn, whereby “90-95% of people won’t subscribe” and just use the free version.

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