While some argue that hiring a public relations team shouldn’t be at the top of a startup’s to-do list, these PR mavens say hiring such a team is more important than you think.
By Sheena Tahilramani and Denise Gitsham
Editor’s Note:This article is in response to the April 11, 2014 piece, “Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Hire A PR Firm.”
Maybe you’re an entrepreneur who just secured your first significant round of funding. Or perhaps you’ve just leveraged your own savings to fund your company. No matter what your story is, you’ve undoubtedly put a lot on the line to make your idea come to life.
As a businessperson on a limited budget, it’s crucial to identify the essentials. An effective PR team is as vital to the growth of your business as the engineer who handles your back-end programming. Here’s why:
1. YOUR BRAND MESSAGING LARGELY DECIDES WHETHER YOUR PRODUCT WILL SUCCEED
Successful branding does not come easily, nor is it an intuitive process. Startups that work with an excellent PR team from the beginning set themselves up for success. There’s a reason why venture capital firms tend to use a dedicated PR firm: they know it’s a worthwhile investment.
2. ESTABLISHING BRAND VOICE TAKES MORE WORK THAN YOU THINK AND MORE TIME THAN YOU HAVE
If you work for a startup, you already have a to-do list as long as the intro from Star Wars. Writing press releases and pitches may seem easy at first glance, but PR professionals use precise language, phrasing, and sentence construction to make sure reporters pay attention and communicate the right things to the public. This takes up a lot of time, and you haven’t any to spare.
3. YOU KNOW YOUR MARKET, BUT PR FIRMS BECOME YOUR MARKET
You’re probably already familiar with your target demographic, but getting them familiar with you takes a lot of manpower and creativity. PR firms know that empathy is key to crafting a message, and are able to effectively cultivate brand love because they truly understand your customers.
4. IF YOU DON’T ACTIVELY TELL YOUR STORY, SOMEONE ELSE WILL TELL IT FOR YOU
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 reiterate who you are. You do this in part through your product (which, for PR’s sake, we hope is awesome). But your product isn’t enough to get the story to stick. PR firms drive your message to the media, so that they represent you in a way that attracts consumers.
5. OUR CREATIVITY IS BOUNDLESS
PR strategy is contingent on approaching objectives differently from the norm. A simple press release, while necessary, is not going to catapult you to success. Coupling that press release with a roll-out strategy across five different platforms, with timing contingent on audience reach? That’s where PR professionals truly shine.
You’ve developed an incredible product–you owe it to yourself and your investors to give your company the best shot possible.
Find PR professionals who share your passion and excitement, and they will stop at nothing to make the world love your brand.
—Sheena Tahilramani and Denise Gitsham are co-founders of 7 Second Strategies, a public affairs agency based in Southern California. The firm serves as the exclusive PR sponsor of San Diego Startup Week.