As the CEO of an early stage company, there are a lot of hats you have to wear. The list of tasks to complete are never-ending and with limited employees, there are many different job functions you have to take on - some that you may be familiar with, and some that may fall outside your realm of expertise.
You're also constantly being advised on the many things you should be doing in order to be successful, so how do you know which areas to prioritize when you have limited resources?
One area where this question often comes up for early stage companies is in Public Relations: whether or not they should focus on PR, either in addition to or in place of other marketing efforts.
Ultimately, you will have to decide what is right for your company. To help assess the situation however, I've outlined some of the Pros & Cons to PR for early stage companies below.
1. Leverage a larger network
As an early stage company, you likely don't have a huge community of followers yet. Your newsletter subscriber list, social following, and blog readerships may be small-to-insignificant. But leveraging PR can help you tap into the community of whichever publication you are published in, which is likely to be much larger and ideally (if you're choosing them correctly) full of target customers. Use PR as a way to amplify your brand message and extend the reach of your content.
2. Media influences conversion rates
According to a recent Hubspot study, Media Articles are one of the key purchase influencers for business software, second only to customer referrals and word-of-mouth referrals. By getting added exposure in relevant news sources, PR can help you align your product or service with a reputable media outlet and leverage their sphere of influence to drive conversions.
3. Can do internally to save money
You don't necessarily have to hire a new employee to execute PR for your brand. Effective PR services can be performed internally by any existing team member who has the time to dedicate to building relationships with relevant journalists and to submit well-written content that aligns with what the journalists typically publish on.
1. PR can be extremely time consuming
While you can do PR internally, you may want to hire someone outside your company to do PR services on your behalf, as the job can be unbelievably time consuming. Most PR professionals or advisors will tell you that in order to do effective PR, you will need to source and monitor those journalists who write content most relatable to your company's offering. This means locating the journalists, consistently reading as much of their published body of work as possible, and then finding ways to pitch to them while keeping your story relevant and interesting. This could mean a lot of work, and with the many other things on your plate, you may not want to dedicate so much of you or your employees' time to PR.
2. Can be expensive to outsource
Reputable PR firms can charge anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 a month, and as an early stage company it is not uncommon to be strapped for cash. $5,000 may be a sizable piece of your current funding, which you may also have earmarked for other business growth areas, such as hiring talent, product development, or operating services. How much are you willing to dedicate to PR?
3. No guarantee of success
Even when doing PR correctly, as instructed by firms or advisors, there is no guarantee that your content will be published. Unlike paid advertising where your message is contracted to be displayed, you can spend a lot of time submitting content to journalists and hear nothing back. The process is, for the most part, out of your control. And while getting your brand published in the New York Times could mean a huge payout, gaining no traction at all is a risk you'll have to assess when determining whether or not you want to do dedicated PR.
As I stated earlier, ultimately its up to each company to decide where they dedicate their time and resources for developing their business, and whether or not PR is a part of that. But I hope this has helped to start the conversation.
Brooke Hammerling, founder of BrewPR and who's roster includes companies such as Oracle, Wordpress, and About.Me, believes that most early stage companies don't need PR. Her stance, in this First Round Review article, is that at this stage, companies should spend their time and money on developing their product and building their team. Only if that company is entering a crowded market, has a CEO with previous history with the press, or if the technology is disruptive enough to change a huge industry, does Brooke recommend leveraging a PR firm.
From my own experience with CEOs, I've heard different remarks. I'll leave you with a quote from one of the CEOs we interviewed regarding the hurdles they faced as they grew their business and what they wished they had done differently: "The correct sequence is: Iterate your platform until you have a really good product market fit. Step number 2 is to start with PR - get the word out, get articles, get a bunch of PR. Only once you have sufficient visibility through editorial, only then do you start spending marketing dollars."
Let me know your thoughts on PR for early stage companies by reaching out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to also explore other thought-provoking content on our website & blog here: https://www.therevenuegroup.net/news-updates.