Start Up Public Relations: 5 Things to Help You Know When It’s Time to Hire a PR Firm

We hear this a lot when we talk to young (and sometime mature) companies who are going through the process of hiring a PR firm: We want to be in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and TechCrunch. Using a baseball analogy, those are the home runs, and few companies—except a unicorn or two—rarely earn coverage there in their first couple of years of business. Why? Because they didn’t do the interim work with a series of singles, doubles and triples before they started trying for the home runs.

A focused, experienced and flexible PR firm can help startups walk through the process of moving towards these high-prestige publications, but there are many steps along the way. Here are a few things start-ups need to keep in mind as they decide to bring a PR firm onboard:

  1. Know what you’re selling. Really having a grasp on your product or solution is critical. You need to be able to articulate your company’s key differentiators in both short form (an elevator pitch) and long form (a strategic Positioning and Messaging document, described below). A PR firm can make sure your story will stand up to the scrutiny of media and analysts.
  2. Know who you are selling this product or solution to. Once you know what your product does, it’s time to discuss who your main audiences are. Saying you’re going to sell into vertical markets is fine, as long as you know which specific vertical markets and the titles at those types of companies that you are looking to reach. It’s important to determine this quickly, not just “spray and pray” your message everywhere and hope that it works. Focus is key, and a strategic PR firm can help you take a hard look at where you are now, and where you want to be.
  3. Evaluate your website and collateral. What do you have available in terms of content assets? Do you have at least two or three white papers, a couple of case studies and some solution briefs to get you started? A well-ordered website can go a long way in attracting attention but having those assets can help gather the leads you need to get started. A PR firm can help you evaluate these assets and determine how to repurpose them in different ways to get the highest return on investment.
  4. Know where you stand on positioning and messaging. Have you gone through a formal Positioning and Messaging exercise?That means taking a hard look at your Strategic Positioning, Key Messages and Proof Points, and Value Propositions and make sure they not only hold water but resonate with the companies you are trying to attract for proof of concept trials and as full customers.A strategic PR firm can help you evaluate these elements, and not only tell you what is good and bad, but also what is missing.
  5. Understand your timeline. Generally, companies should start working with their PR firm at least three months before they are ready to talk to the media and analysts. The reason: It takes that time to make companies “media ready,” making sure the positioning and messaging is in place, that content assets are available, that the audience is defined, and that the products are ready to roll. That being said, make sure your PR team is focused on delivering coverage and content in the first months of your engagement, so you receive steady results and lead generation.

Start-ups have tremendous opportunity in today’s burgeoning B2B technology market. By working with a PR firm focused on your industry early in the process, you’ll be well prepared when it’s time to speak with the media and analysts that want to share your story with their audiences.

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