A Founders Guide to PR.

Most startup founders don’t pay much attention to Public Relations (PR) until a good or bad crisis happens. That’s a shame.

PR is not a nebulous or scary thing if you have a plan and foster relationships before a crisis occurs. One common problem founders fall into is confusing social media with PR. Social media is an essential part of your PR strategy but it does not take the place of a well thought out PR plan.

What the Heck is PR Anyway?

Before we dive into what all startup founders should know about PR, let’s define what PR is since it can be really confusing for someone new to the PR game.

There are Five Roles of Public Relations that most people agree with:
  1. Brand Building: This is a major part of PR since how the public perceives you will make or break your brand. This is different than marketing since marketing is a direct plea to customers while PR creates a company persona that builds goodwill in a non-sales/marketing way. At least that’s the ideal case.
  2. Messaging: A consistent message is vital to a company. This starts with your slogan or what your company believes in. Your messaging is also crafted by what others (e.g. Bloggers, press) say about you. PR attempts to manage that.
  3. Lead Generation: PR is the tip of the lead generation spear. It’s how the public discovers your brand via reviews and stories in the press. Social media is now playing a bigger role in this.
  4. Communications Command Center: A consistent message is the key to success during a crisis or an opportunity. Your PR team is your go to team when breaking news happens. Your PR team should be constantly interacting with the press and opinion leaders so that when good or bad news breaks, it can be handled properly.
  5. Increase Your Valuation: Ultimately, a good PR team and strategy will increase your companies awareness and that in turn increases the value of your company.

The five roles above are the classic roles of PR. Even in the new world of social media, they are still valuable and relevant.

What a Founder Needs to Know about PR

All aspects of PR revolve around the five roles but when you throw in social media, you get a whole other dimension in which to play. Most of the time, social media is great way to raise awareness and build your brand. Some brands also use it as their central communications center for everything that’s going on.

As a founder, the most important thing to remember about PR is to not neglect it. There will be a time when your company will face a challenge or an opportunity that will require some sort of PR savvy response. Either avoiding or wasting an opportunity will be a major regret just because you don’t understand or have a PR reaction.

So, what’s a founder to do if the budget is just not there to hire a professional PR firm?

For starters, have a solid social media strategy that includes regular contributions to your sphere of influence. What may you ask is a sphere of influence?

A sphere of influence is who your companies interacts with and those that follow you. It’s vital that you get others to know, like, trust, and promote your brand. You do that via contributing with blog posts, sharing articles, getting on panels, attending conferences, etc. Anything that shows that you are a regular contributor before good or bad news strikes. If you don’t have anyone on your staff to do that, then you as the founder have to take charge.

It’s Never Too Early for PR

A lot of founders think that PR is something you do when you have a major announcement or release. That’s just not true. Your company should always be active building your public relations image. It is never too early for a founder to get out there and make their ideas known — it’s the best way to build your brand and reputation.

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