Startups, Don’t Do PR

You have the right to remain silent… That’s one Hollywood dialogue that I best reckon with when a ‘No PR’ works better for startups than an aggressive PR machinery. Here, let’s discuss the when and why of silence for startups.

Yes, the internet is full of articles talking about the importance of PR for startups, how to do it, when to start with it, and several more. Some of them have been penned by me as well. Taking a contrarian view today (making a dent in my own business) I want to talk about the situations and conditions wherein a startup must not do PR. Silence serves better than communication, at times.

A gainful silence is better than a harmful PR

In Times of Anger

Startups, by the very nature of their origin, are mostly founded and run by the young blood. That comes with its own pros and cons. One of the cons happens to be the aggravated reaction to things and situations. It could be a comment from another co-founder of the same startup, a tweet by a competing co-founder or an adverse policy announcement by the government - triggers could be many. All you need to do in such a situation is — remain silent. I personally advice a chilled beer and no impulsive comments on social media. A revert is only advisable after some bit of mind-sharing and opinion from a rather sensible communicator.

When low on Content

In the very initial stages, many if not most startups lack a story to share. Don’t go to media, howsoever desperate you may be. An expert storyteller (read PR consultant) may create a story out of nothing, that’s a different story. But the bottom-line is, if you don’t have adequate data, content or a real story to share, don’t initiate any communication with media. Wait for the right time. Going out to media all blank has its own danger. You or your brand may lose trust in the eyes of media. And mark my words, there’s nothing more devastating than that in the world of business.

When you may Offend

Howsoever young the startup and agile the co-founders maybe, offending communication is the last thing you should get your hands dirty with. Those are games best left for the corporate houses to play. They bully each other, play ad wars, get into litigation, and lots more. Well, they are pretty loaded to try hands at those things. A startup, if not a Unicorn yet, should rather not touch such issues at all.

What you may Regret later

Yeah! That’s a bit tricky. And that’s when you need professional help.

Always think twice before going all out with a PR campaign, and double check the news or facts that you are going to share with the media. Hypothetically, try assuming all kinds of situations that the future may have in its womb for you. If there is slightest of chance that you may regret in future anything that you say or share today, don’t tell that story.

What may give the Wrong Impression

Reference to context matters a lot. Timing is the essence. Your views - howsoever justified and sincere they may be — if the timing is not right, may get you trapped. Either go with the flow or better remain silent, sailing against the trend may prove fatal. Remember Aamir Khan’s safety concern controversy? After these many weeks and months, he may sound talking all sense and expressing his personal views. But around that time anyone siding him or even the brand endorsed by him was considered anti-national.

Moral of the story: If your communication may give a wrong impression, better remain silent.

If you have to Scream

There’s a lot of difference between ‘shouting out loud’ and ‘screaming’. If your story demands the latter, maybe it’s high time to not go out to media. It’s perfectly fine to shout out loud and reach out to the farthest corner of the world with your amazing idea, your achievements, your success story and your trajectory. But if you have to scream to make a point, get noticed and showcased, ‘NO PR’ is what you need.

When it’s Time to Listen

If you think PR is all about going out to media and telling them your story, well you’ve got it all wrong. It’s no one way traffic but a two-way communication. At times, you should just try meeting senior media persons and gain feedback instead of force feeding your story.

PR is good but at times NO PR is better. Positive PR is the best bet. ‘All PR is good PR’ doesn’t apply much to the benefit of startups and risk may not be worth taking most of the times. A startup is not just a company — it’s a combination and compilation of several dreams, life, future and fate. I would rather not suggest putting it all at stake for sake of a mention.

The author is Founder, — a PR consultancy for Startups.