Is Your Startup Ready For Professional PR?
PR isn't just a handy tool for publishing nice words about your startup
As a serial entrepreneur and three-time company founder who has worked with several public relations firms, I understand what finding the right firm can do for a solid startup that is ready for PR. Unfortunately, many founders' ideas about PR are based on misconceptions about what PR is and how it differs from marketing and promotion.
Some PR misconceptions
PR isn't just a handy tool for publishing nice words about your startup. Journalists and media aren't there to be your mouthpiece. They 'can' get your story and accomplishments in front of the right audience, provided you have something of value to share.
Think of your company as a bar of solid gold. It's authentic. It has substance: leadership, accomplishments, purpose. It has a compelling story. It contains real value within, where it counts. If this describes your company, PR can help bring you the attention your story and company deserve. But if your company is gold-plated, without substance, the best PR firms in the world won't get your story placed.
The media's job is to find the real gold and share their stories. Journalists' loyalty is not to the people or companies that pitch them, but to their audiences. They'll happily work with you, if you offer something of interest to their audiences.
PR is earned, not gifted or bought
PR is earned media, and to earn it, you must have done something worthy of mention. Unlike advertising or promotion, which you largely control, PR isn't for sale, nor is it given to everyone who asks for it. You'll first need to focus on advertising and promotion—with a little marketing and branding thrown in—while you work on building something the world will be eager to hear more about.
When you're ready for PR
Once you've done the heavy lifting and are ready to share your story with the world, there are several core points to remember about PR firms:
- Hire the right firm, one that specializes in your startup's sector. If your startup is in crypto and you hire a firm with little experience in that space, you shouldn't expect to get much coverage, and it won't be the PR firm's fault. They may choose to tackle the challenge only to fail to secure the desired coverage. You're the one footing the bill, so do your research.
- You need some personal traction as the CEO or founder – a compelling personal story, for example – to motivate a reporter or journalist to pay attention. Expecting a story to focus wholly on your fledgling startup with no context is setting yourself up for disappointment. Give your PR team, and their contacts, something to work with.
- Remember what PR is and what it isn't. PR is not a method for promoting your startup. It's a way for you, as an individual, to capture the hearts, minds, imaginations, and emotions of your target audience by building credibility and trust. Let the world know who you are, where you come from, what you've done, and how you plan to make the world a better place.
- Budget for PR. This is true not only because the professionals are better at it than most inexperienced founders, but because they have the connections that can help you succeed. Additionally, most top startup accelerators require at least some PR; so, if you hope to join one of those, be prepared to work with the pros when the time is right.
The pros weigh in
I asked two professionals I highly respect why PR is important for a startup. Here are their thoughts.
Ayelet Noff, Founder and CEO of SlicedBrand: "Public relations, which exists as a distinct segment of a company's marketing and communications activities, is the only way to get "earned media" for your brand. Earned media is the hardest form of media to attain, but also the purest and most effective. When was the last time you downloaded an app because of an ad? Meanwhile, if your favorite New York Times journalist, whom you greatly admire, writes about an app and how great it is, you'll be much more inclined to download it. Getting a top-tier reporter to write about your product is tough – that's why it's so powerful when it happens. Journalists are influencers in their own right, and a good public relations firm will already have those connections in place. Connections are everything in almost any industry, but even more so in PR.
It is only through years of cultivation that PR pros develop the necessary relationships with reporters and publications that lead to an understanding of their specific needs. Once you understand their needs, you'll be able to approach them effectively with your stories and announcements. Ultimately, it's the end reader that matters, and public relations helps you best meet the needs of the publications your ideal customer is reading.
PR pros know how to find the golden kernel that is a brand's USP. What's more, they can come up with storytelling angles that will communicate that golden kernel to the right reporters at the most appropriate publications, maximizing visibility for your startup."
Tom Farren, writer and Web3 journalist: "PR agents serve as the intermediaries between corporate executives and the publishing world of journalists and editors. They work tirelessly to translate complex business developments into concise, presentable narratives, gifting writers the tools to color in the gray area of story, so that readers can visualize the full picture.
Many of my best articles were born out of existing relationships formed from my interactions with PR agents. I couldn't recommend their work highly enough, especially for startup organizations."
Do your company a favor
There are so many promising companies out there that hamper their own progress with a limited understanding of PR. By doing your due diligence and familiarizing yourself with the medium's purposes and methods, you can only brighten the future of your business.