3 Stories That Show Why Press Coverage is Only a Band-Aid
In the past 6 weeks alone, I’ve had 3 conversations that revealed just how much startups are investing in getting press coverage and just how little return they’re getting from it. Press coverage is a Band-Aid and not an entire marketing strategy.
1. The founder with the really cool app
I was at a conference a few weeks back and I started chatting with a founder who actually had a really cool app. We’re all saturated with apps, so it can take a lot to feel like there’s an app that’s going to do something interesting, but this one had me intrigued. This is how the conversation went down:
He told me all about it and I said, “That’s amazing! When do you launch it?” He said a month from now. So I asked him about his launch strategy. He said “Oh, we’re probably going to get covered.” That was it. So I prodded. “Who’s going to find out about that?” I questioned. “Do you have any social outlets?” “Well, we just set up Twitter,” was his response. “So, you have no way of capitalizing on the press that you’re about to get? Are you working with somebody?” He said, “No, we just think we have a really good story,” I said, “Okay, great, good luck with that.”
This is one in a million examples of startup founders I’ve met who are convinced that getting press is the end-all to their sales and brand awareness. You cannot bank on that.
Press coverage and PR should only be one arm of an entire, comprehensive marketing strategy.
Sure, getting published can give you a nice spike in traffic, but ultimately that serves more for brand awareness than actual sales.
It’s a great top-of-funnel marketing activity, but you shouldn’t delude yourself that that’s going to drive sales for a new brand. In fact even in terms of brand awareness, data shows that potential customers have to see a brand’s name 7 times before they’re going to be interested enough to learn more and check out the products.
2. The toiling-for-months CEO
Another person I met recently had literally spent months trying to get his startup covered. This person was the CEO of the company and was taking enormous chunks of time to pitch to the media when he could have been spending time doing more valuable development, like having conversations with potential customers and investors.
They did eventually get press, but they did it at the loss of developing their own continual audience. There’s always an opportunity cost.
The startup got covered, but did so at the expense of building an audience of long-term customers. People reading that publication check out the article, they think it’s interesting, they read the article, and they leave. It’s very seldom going to actually result in sales.
Just because the media talks about you doesn’t mean you can leapfrog all of the other necessary steps to building a customer base.
3. The in-house expert
And finally, the story of a funded, very successful hardware startup who worked with a PR firm who was spending $12k a month for a PR agency to produce blog posts for them. The founder recently had an epiphany. She’s a pretty solid writer with a strong grasp on industry publications and thought, “They wrote several pieces for us and they’re starting to get picked up, which is really cool, but why am I paying $12k a month to do something that I could have done anyway?” She is totally right.
Big PR bucks can make a serious dent in your return when allocated to Facebook Ads, SEO, etc. — so why throw it at getting press for a small brand awareness boost?
Sure, if your marketing budget is $100k a month, go ahead and spend $12k on producing killer content. But if $12k is your entire marketing budget,
you’re only handicapping your company by thinking press is the answer.
Instead, invest in a variety of channels with more dispersed spending and open up doors for ROI, consumer-base building, AND brand awareness at the same time.
It’s great if you have multiple $12ks to designate to each channel, but it’s too big of a risk for a startup who doesn’t have that kind of cash.
And here’s a bonus example if you’re still not sold:
I attended HustleCon a few weeks ago where Payal Kadakia, the Co-Founder and former CEO of ClassPass spoke. She talked of beginnings of her company where things seemed to be totally taking off. They were getting press coverage left and right, including being on the cover of Inc. magazine. Sounds amazing, right? Except there’s a catch — nobody was actually booking classes using her program. The media was acknowledging the cool idea, but it wasn’t translating into tangible ROI at all.
I could have made a whole list of these stories from the last 6 weeks. Keep these cautionary tales to keep in mind when you’re thinking about approaching press.
Considering the risks and recognizing that press is really just a Band-Aid will result in a more efficient marketing strategy and more returns.