When you have a startup, it seems like Do It Yourself (DIY) PR is the way to go. Mostly because there is little budget to hire a firm and certainly no budget to hire an in-house PR person when you are just starting out. Sometimes, there is not enough news yet to warrant PR anyways.
Initially, it will seem like a great idea to do your own PR. You might even pick someone on your team to be the stand-in PR person and tell them to get a Public Relations for Dummies book or download a few press release templates as well as read our 7 PR Secrets series.
While PR can cost you a great deal of money, it can also completely change your business for the better. PR can help establish brand voice and thought leadership but it takes more work than you think and more time than you, as a founder, may have. That’s the classic trap that busy people get into — there is no magic PR for busy people approach that requires no work.
When To Bring in the Pros
The DIY method starts to break down when a few missed media opportunities happen, or even worse, a damage control issue is not handled properly and all of a sudden you are scrambling to bring in a professional. Public relations does need to be handled tactically using good PR pros who are expertise in the industry for volatile situations since every aspect of media challenges need to be handled carefully.
Public relations can definitely be a good option. Entrepreneurs often lack clear goals for their PR efforts, and struggle to explain where, or why they want to be featured in the media. However, PR needs a strategy that’s S.M.A.R.T. — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related.
Walking the Walk. Talking the Talk
Just like any other aspect of your business, PR needs to work with your other business processes. Whether or not your startup story is mundane, magical, or entirely made up, the media will craft its own narrative for your company if you don’t persistently iterate who you are. This means that all aspects your company that outwardly face (Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service) all need to be walking the walk and talking the talk.
It’s not just journalists who might be interested in your startup. Think about social media influencers, bloggers or associations who could share your news. It’s critical to do your research and send keep your message consistent since journalists read all sorts of material to determine how you fit in with your industry, customers and competitors.
A smart public relations expert will know how to target your audience, selling only the features and benefits of the product that will appeal or apply to them. Founders trying to either save a buck or think they can do their own PR, often times get jaded by their own product. They try desperately to create angles, pitches and stories based on what they want the audience to hear, not what the audience should be hearing. This is the classic falling in love with your product and is probably the single biggest reason for founders to hire a professional PR person so that you don’t drink your own Kool Aid.