Who should do PR?
You might worry at this stage whether your company is ready to start PR at this point. The reality is: you’ve probably already started. Once you’ve started telling people - anybody - about your company, you’re ‘doing’ PR. You might have told friends and family, held preliminary discussions with angel investors, or even featured on a friend’s podcast. That all counts as PR. On a basic level, you’ve been communicating information about your company to people.
The real question you’re asking yourself is: when should I start doing active PR? You want to know when you should start sharing company news with newspapers and pitching your product to magazine editors (for those who have already started this, scroll down to the final section.) It’s an important question to ask. Many start too late (or not at all.) Many try too early. We’ll explain all you need to know in the rest of this post.
Your first steps into PR
We at Words + Pixels receive a lot of requests for PR advice from early-stage startups. Many of these startups plan to launch their first product or service in the following six months and want to know how to attract the media’s attention to hype it up. They want to make a big splash when it lands. The problem is: journalists will almost never care about a product that people cannot use yet. At the very least, it needs to function well and be ready to put on the market. We advise founders with startups still in ‘Beta’ mode should hold off on any active PR work.
It’s worth considering your aim once your company’s product is functional and ready for the market. The most common aims are to either raise more investment or sell more products (or both). These require different PR strategies.
The PR strategy for a company that wants to raise further investment will need to focus on highlighting its USPs to attract attention from potential investors. It will also want to target specific industry publications that might not seem glamorous, but will place its brand in front of the right people.
A startup that needs to achieve more sales will need to place its brand in the publications that its customers read. If your product is a tech gadget, that might mean sending review samples to journalists at Wired for product roundups. It will differ from company to company.
Achieving these aims also requires different strategies. Early-stage startups will have limited time and you’ll want to prioritise activities. Drafting and distributing a press release can take a lot of time to do well, but it might present the most effective method of achieving your target. Emailing a journalist whose details you already know might provide a quicker option.
We’ll explain your options in the next posts in this series. But make sure you and any of your co-founders understand why you would like to do PR. We always ask new clients: what does PR success look like to you? Many fail to consider this. It’s one of the most common mistakes we see.
It’s also worth highlighting at this point that PR might not achieve the aims that some companies seek. Top-level software companies that only sell their products to a very specific group of businesses, for example, might rely on word-of-mouth to grow sales. They might want to consider hiring a PR agency at a later date, and for different reasons, than a consumer application brand.
PR employees and agencies
Some of you reading this might have already started doing PR. You might have drafted a few basic press releases, pitched your product to a few journalists, or attended a few interviews. Your company has grown, and you might now wonder when you should consider hiring an in-house PR specialist, freelancer or agency?
For PR to be a success, there needs to be time dedicated in-house to make it work; whether you’re a PR specialist, PR agency owner with marketing experience, or someone in the founding team. Depending on how significant a role you want it to play, a business may need more or less support.
Often startups look externally for their first foray into PR. The main reason being that PR is a very specialist skill. It lives or dies based on the ability to tell a story and knowing the right media or journalists to discuss it with. Freelancers and agencies do this exclusively for a living so they can immediately provide those meaningful connections with journalists.
External partners also have other clients. On one hand, you may find this frustrating and potentially lead you to look in house so you can have 100% of someone’s time. However, we believe this is nearsighted - an interal PR professional will only ever speak to the media about their brand. Whereas, an external partner will chat to various outlets everyday, giving their clients much broader access and insight to the press.
Freelancers can be fantastic for a startup to provide great insight and coverage for any brand. Naturally a single person will have less capacity than a team so how much you want or expect from your PR may steer you towards an answer on who is best to work with. Agencies and freelancers do this for a living. Chat to them, be honest and hopefully trust they’ll be honest with you about what they think is the best plan based on your situation