Every startup needs PR.*
There’s no question about whether your startup needs PR (because yes, it does.) The better question to ask is, “Does my startup need PR right now?”.
PR is an investment that has huge payoffs if done right. But initiating PR efforts when the essential ingredients for success are missing is a big waste of time and money. And when you’re a startup without a lot of resources to spare, waste can spell disaster.
So how can you know if your startup is ready for PR? I chatted with SHIFT Vice President Karl Scholz, whose experience advising startups makes him a go-to resource for all things startup-related ‘round these parts. His answers largely informed the meat of this post.
Startups, consider these questions:
Why do I want PR? What do I hope to accomplish through PR?
If your answer is to “sell more product” or “drive sales,” well, PR alone isn’t going to do that. Remember, the primary goal of PR is not to generate leads or revenue. Though PR can contribute to leads/revenue, that’s mainly the realm of marketing and sales. PR’s core responsibility in the marketing mix is to promote awareness and build audiences that you can then market and sell to.
Once your company begins to understand the role of PR, you’re getting much closer to PR-ready.
Do I have a quality product/service readily available or coming soon?
No beating around the bush here: if you don’t have a quality product either available or on the way, not even the best PR in the world can help you.
But let’s assume your product is amazing. Even if it isn’t available yet, you can still benefit from PR. In fact, pre-launch PR can make or break a new company, product or service coming to market.
Are my founders/top execs on board?
No reporter wants to talk to marketing people. They want the real startup story from the mouths of the ones who had the gumption to turn their ideas into a business.
If you’re going to invest in PR, at least one exec – preferably the CEO or a founder – must be willing and able to dedicate time to being a company spokesperson. The bread and butter of PR is earned media coverage, but without a credible spokesperson, you’ve made getting coverage a lot harder.
Do I know what I want to say six months from now?
Gone are the days when a single announcement provided months of momentum. Today, you must be ready to deliver a steady stream of news and timely story angles that can sustain your media presence over time.
After all, your audience is inundated with news every day. In a world where people move on to the next headline in the blink of an eye, you need a plan to nurture your company story arc for many months. If you blow everything on one announcement and then go quiet, you risk losing everything you just invested in.
This is especially true for startups. You may have heard of you, but no one else has! Be prepared to maintain a steady drumbeat of news so that the third or fourth time someone hears your name, they’ll start to pay attention. Company momentum, funding, new/updated products, compelling research, and events are all fair game for news announcements!
Well, are you ready?
Knowing what it takes to make the most of your PR investment puts you leaps and bounds ahead of many companies who dive into PR programs without a clue. Go you!
Once you have all the ingredients you need, then there’s no time to lose! Whether you start off with homegrown efforts or hire an agency, it’s high time to get the good word out.