As a start-up, maximizing time, value and resources is the only way to ensure proper growth and success. You’ve got to be lean – pun intended. Eric Ries’ Lean Startup philosophy “seeks to eliminate wasteful practices and increase value producing practices during the product development phase so that startups can have a better chance of success without requiring large amounts of outside funding, elaborate business plans, or the perfect product.“ So if it is not a catalyst for growth, then there’s no time to waste on it. Makes perfect sense.
What doesn’t make sense to me is that when looking at areas in the budget to cut back on or completely forgo, PR is often the leading contender for many startups. My perplexity isn’t coming from the fact that my mortgage, bills and frivolous motorcycle expenditures depend on my income from practicing PR, rather, the undeniable truth that PR is the cheapest, most effective way to raise visibility, establish credibility and attract customers.
Robert Wynne, head of Wynne communications, wrote a great article for Forbes recently that took a look at the differences between PR and Advertising. To illustrate the stark differences he used this chart:
The point of this blog isn’t to compare PR to Advertising, as it is safe to assume that those who shy away from PR due to budget concerns have no plans on footing what is generally a much higher bill for advertising. The first three rows under “Public Relations” are what I want to focus on:
You don’t wave a magic PR wand and all of a sudden the editor of Wired Magazine writes a piece on your early stage startup. You don’t spam the web with press releases posted to every wire service available hoping that a reporter will pick it up and write said article. Or expect your customers to be scouring wired services and stumble upon your release. NO! Anyone who offers this sort of service to you is not a PR PRO. Real PR professionals EARN coverage by convincing a reporter, blogger or influencer that their audience should know about your company.
According to Michael Levine, author of Guerilla P.R., “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article it is between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.” This is very logical – people, your customers included, are much more likely to be convinced by a credible reporter/influencer who they respect rather than an advertisement – with nothing more than dollar amount it took to fill the space in which it appears – backing it. An effective PR professional has, or can establish, relationships with the folks who will be the most influential to your prospective customers. They know enough about your company to impart their knowledge onto the reporter, who if convinced, will spread that knowledge to the people who will ultimately buy your product or service and determine the success of your business.
Third Party Validation:
This is everything. Advertisements come directly from the company. Same as marketing. Yes, there may by a conduit, perhaps an agency or consultant helping you craft these communications, but at the end of the day, this is nothing more than you telling someone “I’m awesome, by my product.” You may be awesome, but today’s savvy consumer needs a bit more conniving before shelling out some cash. The media, an industry that society holds to the highest of standards, and one who holds themselves to even higher standards, is the best way to convince someone they should do business with you. Unlike advertisers or other communications businesses, the media is not incentivized to tout your product or service. So when they say you are awesome, chances are you really are.
So now you agree that PR may be worth considering after all. Maybe you should give it a try yourself, right? Wrong! A hastily thought out and executed PR push can have the opposite result of an effective one. Remember, you don’t only appear in a newspaper or on a blog when it is a favorable story… and once it’s up there, it’s there forever. Leave it to the pros.
Interested in the above? Many PR shops have free trial campaigns for startups to get you started on the path to success.