When To Hire a PR Agency?
If you have answered all the questions below with a resounding 'YES' then pick up the phone and call the 3 best agencies in the industry for a PR pitch.
Starting a business is exciting. Even more exciting is public acknowledgement of your business acumen. And nothing says "You've arrived' like the lead article with your picture in the leading daily in your city. Sounds exciting right? It is. That's called good PR for your company and good PR by your team. But before you do that there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Why are you doing the business? This gets ignored one too many times. The "why' of doing the business is an important one and it is essential that you have clarity on it before you go out there and start speaking about it. Your investors are smart cookies and they know how to spot a fake. The media even more so. Once you have this sorted out then look at amplifying this message via a good PR agency. The clarity on "why' will also ensure you give a clear brief to your agency and they will deliver to you're your expectations and more. The good ones will always ask you for the "Why'. Hire them only if they connect with it.
Do you have the bandwidth? With PR comes a lot of attention and focus on your business. Be very sure that your business has the bandwidth to handle the media attention and media scrutiny. The worst thing that can happen is that you get featured in your dream publication and get triple the amount of calls …and your team does not have the bandwidth to handle it! Or your app / portal crash because it cannot handle the traffic. Negative media backlash is much more difficult to come back from than no media attention at all.
Can YOU handle it? In a startup, the founder's story is the best and quickest route to getting the word out. You need to weave your company's story within this. This means you need to be comfortable with opening up to the media and hence the public at large about a lot of details about your life. All this will put the focus firmly on you – as an individual and professional. Your company's credibility will be equated to your personal credibility. Atleast till the first quarter of your business or till you put out the investment news or make the next major breakthrough in your industry.
Have you explored PR on your own? A good way of getting a little taste of PR is to have a page on a social media network of your choice. Preferably one that is relevant to your industry. Run it yourself or with a few key team members and look at the consumer response. Let the growth be organic. Focus on the content you put out there and the customer conversations that follow. The strength and frequency of your conversations on the page will give you a good indication whether you are putting out content that the customer wants to know and is interesting enough to pique their curiosity.
And… getting a taste of PR does not mean you stalk the journalist who was introduced to you by your buddy's buddy who might or might not do the story on your start up. If you have emailed and called them once then wait for the call. If the story is good then they will come to you. Don't stalk! Stalking journalists gives you a bad reputation that takes any good PR agency a long time to rework.
Do you have enough material for more stories? If you are lining up interesting innovations or campaigns in the near future that will create interesting story pegs for the media that will sustain a PR campaign then it's time you called in the pros. You have to be comfortable and confident about the time frame and introduce it in a media forum only when you are completely ready with it. A PR agency can work wonders and sometime create news out of nothing at all…but not all the time! You need to substantiate their work with a strong talk point around which they can build a story.
Do you want to focus on your business? Once you get a taste of the first article and the accolades start pouring in…it is very easy to get swept up in trying to get more and more and more. Each story then takes more time to crack and you start focusing on it. When you start spending more than 10% of your time on PR then about time you started looking for a good PR agency to work with you. Your time is precious and you need to devote as much time as possible on your core business. The more you work on it, the better the offering is and more the accolades you receive from the industry and your customers. Leave the story telling to the PR pros.