Thanks to the evolution of social and digital media, it seems like no other industry has changed as quickly as PR. Content creation and storytelling aren’t just jobs for journalists any more, as anyone with access to a computer can now become part of the media.
With startups and small businesses popping up in every ‘digital’ corner, communicating and differentiating your brand is more important than ever. More new businesses were created in 2021 than any other year before, which means you have more competitors with every passing day.
The biggest challenge therefore is grabbing a journalist’s attention and standing out on the platforms that are relevant to your audience. Startups need a PR partner with the strategic communication practice that drives awareness, boosts trust, and ultimately drives sales.
Finding the right PR company isn’t easy, so we’ve broken down a few key considerations and questions you should ask below before engaging with an agency.
Is public relations a good idea for startups?
Besides a holiday, is there really ever a perfect time for anything? When it comes to launching your business off the ground, there are many priorities pulling you - and your bank account - from pillar to post.
You might be thinking, can I do it myself to save some pennies? Of course you could, but why engage with something that distracts you from the most important thing of all - growing the business. PR also isn’t an easy job, so if you’ve never worked in PR before and haven’t got the necessary experience to do it justice, it could go drastically wrong.
You might also be asking yourself if PR can be done in-house, why should you pay a PR professional at all?
Firstly, PR agencies have a wide network of journalists, editors, and influencers that you can take advantage of. Agencies also pride themselves in their ability to build and keep media relations, and there is a huge amount of HR (human relations) that comes into play in PR. Put simply, agencies know who to pitch to, what to pitch, and where coverage is most likely to be secured.
PR agencies also have the advantage of being outside of your organisation, which is more important than it may seem. Working with an agency can be a great way to develop company messaging that speaks to your target audience as well as receiving feedback on what news stories will work in the media.
But why not simply pay for coverage? Two reasons: firstly, paid media is often incredibly promotional and people don’t want to be sold to any more. They want the ability to do their own research and make their own decisions without any intrusive adverts telling them why your business and product/services are so amazing.
The other reason is that owned and organic media coverage is far more trustworthy than paid-for material. The fact that a journalist has vetted your story and found it interesting enough to publish is a much more convincing and subtle way in letting audiences know about your brand.
Some top-tier journalists might not even read pitches from startups and businesses they’ve never heard of, but they might just remember the agency that sent it. You need someone that knows how to work with the media, and there comes a time in every startup’s journey when your time becomes more precious than trying to figure this out.
Timing is everything in PR, and there are certain scenarios where building out a campaign can be especially important. For example, if you’re about to launch a new product line or service, it’s important to the business that new audiences find out about it. Expanding into a new market or geography can also be a good time to onboard a PR agency, as well as when announcing a new funding round.
How to find the right PR company
So you’ve come to the decision that you need a PR company, but now comes the hurdle of how to choose the ‘right’ one. Here are our top questions to ask yourself and the agency when selecting a PR partner:
Do they ‘get’ your business?
Industry experience is a given, but perhaps more important is the company's ability to understand your business - and its voice – and understand your future goals and direction.
The list of important attributes your PR partner should possess include; collaborative, creative and proactive - wanting to seek opportunities for your businesses to contribute to.
Measurable PR results are the obvious outcome in any relationship, but a long-term PR partner will have gotten ‘under the skin’ of your business and may even challenge the status quo, providing a different view.
They should share your goal on what success looks like for you and provide a compelling (and realistic) strategy to achieve it.
Does size really matter?
In some industries it might work in your favour to choose a bigger, more well known company but in PR it may actually have the opposite effect.
Unless however you have an endless pot of money (the dream), your budget is your budget and realistically you want to squeeze every ounce out of it and make it work as hard as possible to contribute to your goals.
Working with a big PR agency may mean that you’re just one of many and there’s every chance someone is paying more than you… This could put you further down the list of their priorities. To avoid feeling like a small fish, in a big tank, why not consider opting for a smaller tank and being the bigger fish.
The added benefit of working with a smaller, boutique agency is that you’ll also have the senior leaders more hands-on with your business.
Do they ‘fit’ with your business?
If you’re choosing the PR company that you want to grow with you, they need to feel ‘right’ and so their cultural fit is another big thing to consider. Look for personality, drive, curiosity and ability to show results to figure out if they’re a good fit for you.
Your PR team should essentially work seamlessly as an extension of your marketing team, sharing the same end goal as you, understanding where they fit in with the wider business and the challenges against them with a clear idea of how to overcome them.
With the lines becoming blurred between marketing and PR through digital marketing it is even more important to choose the perfect piece of the PR puzzle!
Can they show ‘real’ results
We’ve talked about some of the more emotive reasons of how to find the right PR company for your startup, but the proof has to be in the pudding. One thing to be sure of is specifically how they’ll be measuring the success of your campaign so that you know exactly what you’ll be getting for your money.
Take note of how they determine what success means to you and exactly how they’ll be tracking this in terms of measurement. The specific metrics, and the impact of such, are vital to understand the overall success of the campaign.
All measurement should loop back to agreed campaign targets as outlined at the very start of engagement. It’s not enough to simply measure outputs such as volume of coverage, number of interviews created, or backlinks to the website.
Measurement comes from impact and value on your business, so make sure your new agency is able to identify exactly how many people read your media coverage, how many searched for your brand or travelled to your website as a result, and how many became a new contact, lead, or sale.
Finding and choosing your PR company should feel as though a relationship that fosters collaboration with a shared desire to continually meet and then push your goals further is being created.