As a startup, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the heady narcissism of headlines and press hits. Seeing your startup’s name in an article is like hearing your band’s song on the radio: We made it! The feeling is intoxicating. Your investors may or may not feel the same buzz and neither should you.
Every step you take for your startup should generate users or you shouldn’t be doing it at all. It’s highly unlikely that 8-12 inches of space in any publication will sway a discerning VC, create a customer base or initiate partnerships.
If the old adage was “all press is good press,” the startup’s mantra should be “not all good press is useful press.” Paying a PR firm thousands of your hard-earned money in the form of a retainer, whether or not it is successfully doing its job, is just a waste of time and resources.
PR isn’t the magic that drives a company to the next level. It is the actual startup. Once your startup is validated by its audience, then PR can be an ongoing part of a marketing plan and not a one-hit-wonder machine.
Some pointers to help you understand, why PR should not be your priority, as an emerging startup:
Concentrate on your startup value
Don’t work on getting that one article published to become an overnight sensation. Ask yourself about whether – a single press hit with no long-term strategy – has any actual value.
Instead of focusing on these magical press campaigns, entrepreneurs should concentrate on long-term value – generate demand and leads, increase conversions, confirm value for investors and support other strategic business goals.
Ask these questions
After a founder lays the groundwork in terms of strategies and goals, he/she needs to answer the following set of questions with a confident ‘yes’ before reaching out to a PR firm.
- Do you know what you’re selling?
- Can you REALLY explain why your company is or will be unique?
- Do you know the difference between PR and advertising?
- Do you have a sense of how fast you’re likely to grow?
- Is your website ready for information-seeking visitors?
- Are you prepared to measure marketing activities?
- Does your team have time to manage PR and marketing programs, even if you outsource most of the work?
- Do you have the funds to invest in PR and marketing?
The last question sparks a lot of, “Yes, but…” answers like, “Yes but only enough for a one-month project.” Or “Yes but only enough to pay a single freelancer.” All of these “Yes, buts…” are warning signs that you aren’t ready for PR.
Have a mission statement
Have a particular mission that your startup is working to achieve. This will help you evaluate the steps and measures that are supposed to be taken to achieve the mission. When a startup has achieved a specific milestone or mission, then you can consider PR to spread the word or increase user acquisition.
Don’t get disheartened
All of this is not to say that startups should avoid PR. On the contrary, when there is a clear goal, a solid team and a long-term vision, PR can be the most efficient use of a startup’s marketing budget. But if you don’t have that internal framework first, then PR is going to hurt you more than help you.
Startups don’t succeed without consistent effort, time, resources and customer validation. PR and marketing programs are no different. A sprinkling of pixie dust to get a piece of coverage here and there won’t create magical results. But for the company founder, who knows his/her business well, understands its place in the market and the customers and sees PR as a means to reach long-term strategic goals, investing in influence is a sensible choice.