The Ins and Outs of Startup Disclosure

The classic saying rings true: “Everything you do or say is public relations.”

microphones-300x238For every CEO, associate, or coffee runner at a startup, this statement should be embedded in their minds. As an emerging brand in a world of millions of companies, a venture’s image is quite possibly the most distinguishing facet in the marketplace.

As we evolve to our surroundings of new media and the virality of social media, many founders and CEOs at startups don’t fully grasp the media relations side of a business. While many startups also don’t have the budget for communications or marketing professionals, there are essentials on how to present yourself to the media – when to speak and what to say to reporters when it’s time for your business to shine.

Disclosure? Say it isn’t so.
Some of us may not think twice about the harm disclosing information about your venture can have. But at an early stage startup, releasing critical specifics is a no-no. Truth is, your plans are constantly changing, ranging from long-term goals to the name of your company. Until a product or service is born, it’s best to keep everything tight knit and away from media. Excessive disclosure can also ruin relationships with fellow advisors or funders. If you accidentally release the name of your private investors, the blame is on you and the integrity of your company is at stake.

Rule #1: Keep the most important components of your business away from publicity until they are absolutely guaranteed to take place.

What are private conversations? That’s right, private.
And keep them that way. Conversations about your business with colleagues, potential investors, or anyone for that matter that you do not want publicized should never be spoken about in an open setting. Why? You never know who’s listening. During my early college years, I was warned of this very rule. At my internship, a former intern was speaking with a co-worker about a confidential subject on the subway. Little did they know that a reporter from a major news outlet was sitting next to them, listening to the entire conversation. Fortunate for them, the reporter decided against publishing the story and instead notified their boss.

Rule #2: No matter the urge, save private conversations for close quarters.

Media are hungry. And you want to keep them coming.
Nowadays, media in all outlets are looking for a good, juicy story to drive traffic. If your product can provide that, you’re solid gold. But there’s an important note to take away from this: never tell a reporter everything you have to offer. Why? Because they’ll never come back for more. Imagine you have a great product ready to debut that’s going to rattle the 21st century. A reporter from the New York Times approaches you for a feature and you disclose details about the product, the future of it, and everything in between. Chances of you getting another media hit soon? Not likely. But if you keep reporters on their toes with new announcements, they’ll come back wanting more.

Rule #3: Reveal just enough information to gain media coverage. Staying tightlipped can turn out to be a good thing.