Members Login | Not a Member? Apply Now

Find a PRBI Agency
to Work With

PR Boutiques International Member Spotlight

Hagen and Partners

Hagen and Partners specializes in targeting the financial community with extensive experience in investor relations for emerging public companies, as well as banking, technology, commercial real estate, retail and energy.

Read More

Latest Blog from PRBI Members

Why Startups’ Own PR Efforts Rarely Match PR Companies’ Output

By bridgebuzz blog | Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

In my experience, it’s rare for startups to do a great job on their own public relations. The following are four key reasons (generalizations, but, like many generalizations, are commonly true):

  • Most don’t hire people with PR experience during the first few years. Many hire someone to head up marketing, but most marketers aren’t trained to do traditional public relations involving outreach to the media
  • An agency can provide staff at different levels to work on startups’ PR teams. PR strategies get input from very experienced professionals, but routine work can be done  

PR Companies for Startupby someone at a lower billing level. Both are needed. If startups do hire in-house PR staff, they usually can’t afford to bring in someone with a lot of experience and they typically can only afford one PR staff member until they’ve been earning revenues for awhile.  See my analysis of in-house PR versus PR agency and of the hidden costs of hiring in-house staff in previous blog posts.

  •  Most startup executives don’t have enough objectivity to see clearly what does and does not make the company or products newsworthy, and to identify stories the media will be interested in. The common mistake is selecting stories the founders want to tell rather than thinking about what the media want to report (in other words, they’re too self-promotional). In-house PR staff members often make this mistake after they’ve been with a company for a while; the infectious enthusiasm of the founders and others around them can get in the way of objectivity necessary to work well with journalists.
  • CEOs and even CMOs at startups don’t have time to do a good job of PR, even if they could do it well. There are too many competing responsibilities and pressures.

There have been some widely-shared articles over the last few years by entrepreneurs warning others not to spend the money to hire a PR agency. I don’t agree with the advice in these articles (and not just because I own and head a New York public relations agency!). The general basis for these negative opinions are that there’s no real skill behind what PR companies do, and anyone can do as well for themselves as a PR agency will do for them. For all of the four reasons I listed above and a few others, this is simply not true. It’s rare for someone who isn’t trained in journalism or public relations to work well with journalists, particularly in today’s difficult media environment where the stress on journalists’ time and pressure for productivity is at an extreme level.

There’s a cost involved for startups in not hiring a public relations agency – the cost of lost opportunities that professional and objective outside PR people can bring.

Here are six good reasons for hiring a PR company:

  1.        Objectivity – as mentioned above, an outside firm with experience working for many other companies can be more objective about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, on which PR strategies and positioning need to be based.
  2.        Opportunity for startup CEOs to learn – Entrepreneurs with great ideas for their own businesses don’t necessarily have experience devising strategies for communications positioning, crafting appropriate messages for their companies or being interviewed by the media.  Most do not. Yet all of those are crucial to the success and growth of their companies. Startup CEOs have to be involved ongoing in these key areas, and just going through the process with outside professionals is good training. Media training and public speaking coaching are also extremely helpful services that agencies provide.
  3.        Lack of influence from in-house politics – Outsiders aren’t as influenced by the politics of the company as much as insiders. It’s the role of public relations staff, whether internal or external, to advise senior management honestly and directly on communications issues. It’s just easier for outsiders to do this, especially when the necessary feedback is negative.
  4.        Need for hard-to-get traditional media coverage – Social media provides excellent opportunities for entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t replace the influence that newspapers, magazines and broadcast media still have. Traditional media coverage provides credibility and actually has an important influence on social media as well. Yet the downsizing of traditional media outlets has resulted in fewer journalists to contact and less content being developed by those media. That has made it much harder to obtain media coverage. It takes more skill and patience than ever to be successful at media relations.
  5.        Downside of a DIY Screw-up – Saying or doing something annoying when trying to handle the media without professional help isn’t worth whatever money is saved by not paying for an agency. Nobody does this deliberately, but when startups approach journalists without clearly understanding how they work, what they’re looking for and how to craft messages that will best position their companies, they leave a very negative impression.
  6.        Search engine optimization – SEO depends on high-quality, objective content, both on companies’ websites and linking to websites from around the internet. PR agencies are the specialists at both creating that kind of content for their clients and at pitching stories to the media so they’ll create it and provide those crucial inbound links.

If you’d like to know more about PR for startups, download our ebook on that topic. 

By Lucy Siegel

Bridge Global Strategies

Read More
©2013 PR Boutiques International. All Rights Reserved. Website by Bellina Creative Design