3 Times Startups Should Do PR In-House
By: Carli Evilsizer | June 17, 2018
Public relations is often one of the hardest things for startups to do successfully, especially in the early stages of the company. Reporters can be very selective in what they decide to cover and with new startups launching everyday, the media will often pass on news about an early stage startup and choose to write about later-stage or well-known startups instead.
Another reason PR can be difficult for startups is because many startups often aren’t sure if they should try to do PR themselves or hire outside help. So how should a founder or marketing lead decide how to approach PR? We chatted with a few founders and marketing specialists to determine the 3 scenarios where startups would be better off doing PR in-house.
Startups Should Do PR In-House If…
1. Your Startup Doesn't Have a Long-Term Vision
If your startup has just launched or is still in the early stages, you might want to hold off on hiring a PR agency or consultant. When a company is still trying to determine their long-term goals, or might potentially pivot in the next year or two, it can be a waste of time and money to hire outside PR help. If your startup is still changing strategies frequently, founders agree it would be better to manage PR in-house until some of the long-term visions have been figured out.
“I would strongly recommend startups to do PR in-house. Let's be honest, many early-stage startup companies don't have their objectives crystal clear and the company vision and goals can shift as the company continues to grow. PR agencies often get blamed for ineffective execution, however, most of the time its due to the startups failure to define their real vision. Hire in-house so as your company molds so will your PR strategies.”
-Anayet Chowdhury, Co-Founder of ArgoPrep
“As the owner of a startup, it's my vision, my passion and drive that will help truly excite others. It's part of the job. We need to be able to say, with confidence, that we know how to market our product. Once you're confident in your voice and message, then go ahead and start looking for someone to build upon the base YOU created.”
-Sacha Brant, Founder and CEO of Sassy Lasses
2. You Can Get Creative to Be Newsworthy
Sometimes hiring a PR agency during a startup’s launch is a great investment but not always. If you are launching a startup in a very saturated market, it will be hard to get tons of PR coverage, whether you do this in-house or through an agency. Instead, you might want to look for creative marketing strategies to get the attention of the media, like Cheekd. We chatted with Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO of Cheekd, who shared her experience using a PR firm during launch and why she took PR in-house instead.
“I’d hired a PR firm several months before the initial launch of my startup, Cheekd.com, in May of 2010 and paid nearly $10,000. The firm claimed to have reached out to more than 300 bloggers, resulting in a couple of articles of little consequence. But I soon realized I had more passion for my company than any agency could and decided to take on the task of PR on my own. I discovered early on that in a very saturated startup space, it’s crucial to make a splash. Creative marketing quickly became my forte. Not only has it paid off tremendously, it’s been loads of fun. I’ve managed to land myself in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Inc., Shark Tank, Forbes, Entrepreneur Mag and many many more publications all over the world and it’s saved me thousands and thousands of dollars in the end.”
-Lori Cheek, Founder and CEO of Cheekd
3. You Have Clear Marketing Objectives
We can agree that doing PR in-house is a great option if your startup is still in the early stages and has unclear objectives but you might also want to consider doing PR in-house once your startup has established a strong marketing team with clear objectives. If a startup has clear long-term visions and the resources to build out their marketing team, they could begin to consider building out an in-house PR team. We chatted with Britt Armour, Digital Marketing Specialist at Clearbridge Mobile, who said one benefit of keeping PR in-house is authentic messaging and a very deep understanding of the brand’s mission.
“It's a good idea for a startup to try to do PR in house for a number of reasons. Primarily, a successful PR and communications team is able to curate a brand story that is accurately tied to the internal values of the business. Having a PR team that works in alignment with the rest of the company day-to-day will help them better communicate the brand's mission, vision, and values as they are experiencing it themselves. This way, your messaging will be a lot more authentic. Sometimes PR teams are hired as an afterthought which is a mistake many startups make. Ideally, you want to make sure your PR and communications team is a part of the business planning and execution. By this, I mean that PR teams are more effective when they contribute to the overall marketing objectives, such as developing a marketing plan. For instance, your product or service should address a pain-point customers are experiencing. Communicating the messaging around solving your pain point should not be a tactic simply for brand awareness. How you're solving customers' pain points should not be communicated when you're promoting your product or service, but should guide the development of the product/service as well as your marketing plan. What you tell the press, stakeholders, and customers should be congruent with what is internally communicated.”
-Britt Armour, Digital Marketing Specialist at Clearbridge Mobile
There are definitely positives of working with PR agencies and consultants but it might not be right for your startup at this time. A PR agency will have tons of contacts and a strong idea of what is going to be newsworthy but in some situations, a startup might not be ready to work with outside PR help. Every startup will have to decide for themselves whether they want to do PR in-house or hire outside help but most founders will agree if a startup has unclear objectives it’s definitely better to not hire outside help yet.