Q: How can a startup, which generally is low on funds, organize and manage an effective PR team?
A: It's interesting because one of the first things a startup needs to do is build out a marketing plan and budget. A percentage of that should be allocated to PR (vs. marketing vs. advertising and so on).
With that said, I am not sure every early-stage startup should be investing in PR. It really depends on what your goals are, what your product is and which audience you are trying to reach. Before we delve into that, let's first look at the PR strategy from the perspective of B2B vs. B2C startups.
For B2B companies, it's important to build awareness among other businesses and partners you want to reach. That way, when your sales team picks up the phone and starts trying to bring these companies on as clients, they may already know who you are. Some effective ways of doing that are investing in a trade show presence or attending targeted networking events, particularly focusing on opportunities where you can speak on stage and talk about your company or product firsthand.
For B2C startups, it's a bit of a different game. You want to make sure you have the right investment and the right team supporting your PR needs. At the same time you need to be budget conscious in terms of making sure every penny you have is well invested in the product and the core operational theme. Without a flawless product, mobile app, or website, no amount of PR is going to help with converting audience into customers if they do not have an amazing experience using your service or product.
In our work with early-stage startups, we typically work directly with the CEO (as these companies do not yet have a CMO or a marketing head in place). At this stage your PR team should not only be thinking about getting you media and hits, they should also be planning your long-term success: How do you tell a brand narrative early on that builds momentum about where your company wants to be in the future? How do you hedge those communications so what you are doing early on maps back to your longer-term business goals?
Startups have several options when working with PR and communications early on. They can hire someone internally, work with a freelancer, bring on a boutique agency or talk to larger global agencies. Typically, what we see is startups either work with freelancers or smaller boutique firms who can give them a lot of attention.
But before engaging any of these types of PR entities, startups need to figure out if this is the right move. To do so, founders should first set some internal goals for what they want out of PR and make sure said goals are realistic. These goals should include both messaging and brand perception as well as larger goals for the company. A good jumping-off point is the seemingly simple question: What do people need to understand about my company?
Setting these goals can also help young companies identify the right blogs and trades to get in front of for optimal awareness among potential investors.
Above all else, it is critical to make sure that everyone on your team is communicating what you do, not only effectively, but also in a consistent manner. From here this sort of language and messaging trickles through internal communications to all of your owned communications across social media, your blog, email newsletters and the media.
I think there are a few big takeaways for how a startup can organize and manage an effective PR team. First, make sure tou have buy-in from everybody internally at your startup -- from the CEO to the sales team to the product team and even the engineering team. Once you set that internal agenda and decide what your goals are from PR, select an internal point person to manage your PR partner to make sure everything they do maps back to internal goals.
A good PR partner will come up with a comprehensive strategy and tactics and deliver that to you, but it is the startup's responsibility to communicate internal goals to their external agency or communications professional to keep everyone on the same page.