Start-up PR: When do I hire PR?

Q: When does my start-up need PR?

  1. PR is by and large an awareness tool. It is not an acquistion tool. I’ll write a post about measuring PR but in general if your goal it to quickly acquire customers or sales leads, PR can be helpful but hard to measure direct impact on these types of metrics.
  2. PR is helpful for third-party validation. When a respected reporter in a respected news outlet or blog that is important to your audience writes positively about your product, that’s generally just as powerful—if not more powerful—than paid ads you develop yourself. And it’s also content you can “remarket” via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also if you have a lot of recruiting to do, candidates are going to look you up and when they see that you’ve been written up in the outlets they read it is very validating so investing in PR to support recruiting efforts is definitely worth considering.
  3. PR isn’t always just about promoting your product right out of the gate. PR in the early days can be very helpful in creating the context around which your company will eventually be placed in in order to mitigate crisis in the future. So if you are doing something kind of new that pushes people beyond comfort zones that mainstream audiences might view skeptically at first, PR can be an important long-term tool to educate the public with. So rather than just promote your specific offering, this is where a good PR team can develop a long-term foundational program that includes content, reporter outreach and eductation and trend pitching, etc.

Q: OK I think I need PR, but what kind of PR support do I need?

  1. Relationships, relationships, relationships: Do they know the reporters you want to get in front of? Like, legit have worked with those reporters before and better yet work with those reporters frequently on behalf of their other clients. This is huge. So if you are targeting lifestyle editors you probably need a firm in NYC who is constantly in contact with those folks, not an agency who would have to build up those relationships from scratch. If you’re trying to build buzz in the Silicon Valley echo-chamber you obviously need an agency who is in the mix with tech reporters based in SF, etc. But PR is basically biz dev—it’s heavily driven by relationships.
  2. Do you like them and do you feel like they understand what you’re all about? I’ve helped several of our companies run searches for an agency and the agency that always works out really well is the one where the cultures of the teams are a match. So if you’re talking to agency and you’re like “everyone says they are awesome and they’re well connected but like, I totally don’t love talking to them and don’t feel like they get me” then you should probably not work with them, that is OK! Not every talented agency is everyone’s jam. You need to find your people.
  3. What kind of team are they giving you? Do you like the account lead? Will the account lead be the one on the weekly calls and the one going with you to meet reporters? Or no? You should ask them that. Actually is the more junior team pretty awesome and scrappy and hard working? Check that out too. In addition to strategy and media relations, what other talents are on the team? For example: do they seem like good writers? You’re gonna need good writers. Do they get social? Do they seem plugged into the media trends that you are too busy to pay attention to?

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Vice President of Communications @ Coinbase

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Rachael Horwitz

Rachael Horwitz

Vice President of Communications @ Coinbase

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