VC PR Partner | Deeptech PR consultant
No doubt everyone nowadays has an opinion whenever a startup needs PR or not. There are tons of advice on how to get featured, how much should you spend on PR, yadee yadee yada. However, the questions still stand.
Entrepreneurs and investors are interested in what PR is and how it differs from content management or, for example, digital marketing. Why does a startup need PR if the startup is cool and doesn’t need to be “extra” promoted? Can a PR person take over SMM, SEO, and place UTM tags?
What is PR?
I would like to start from the very beginning. So what is PR? What does a PR person do? There is a picture on the Internet that clearly explains the difference between PR and marketing, advertising and branding. Yes, this is the one that tells who is a great lover.
While all of these tools are aimed at achieving the same business goal, the tools are different. So if you once decide you need PR then keep in mind – a PR specialist deals with the media in terms of working out news feeds, organizing interviews, and public speeches. They can rarely deal with traffic, banners, or positive reviews in the App Store.
Yes, in startups, everyone does everything. But I would say, a PR manager can be entrusted with maintaining accounts on social networks, preparing texts for the site, and blogging, for example. While buying traffic and working with CPA networks, it is still better to delegate to someone else.
The range of responsibilities should be reduced to a specific set, so it leads to a greater result in one specific area.
Let say, you need to get featured in the business media so your startup gets attention from potential investors. So let your PR manager work on this – don’t ask him/her to post something interesting on social media every hour so your followers are entertained.
How do you understand that PR is effective and your manager not just wasting time? Now when we know the set of tasks let’s continue with how to measure the quality of PR performance.
Let’s start with ineffective PR
Sometimes an entrepreneur of an early-stage startup really wants to get into a top publication, and yes – it is possible. But the effort spent is huge and sometimes it is just not worth it. Sometimes the founder hires a PR manager and lets him/her act on his/her own, and sometimes the founder acts as a PR person themselves.
In the first case, the specialist does not really understand where he/she is going and for what purpose, therefore, the result is usually poor. The PR manager will ask CEO or product people to write an op-ed about a topic that is somehow related to the business. How this affects business – one can barely know.
In the second case, most often the game is spoiled by a founder’s perception of the business. Of course, every entrepreneur is crazy about their company and ideas, and that’s fine. But no one can pat the founder on the shoulder and say: “C’mon, this is not really a big deal. At least for media”.
Instead of building a good trustful relationship with the editorial staff, the entrepreneur starts bugging journalists. But if the founder succeeds – this is sometimes even worse! Founders start revealing plans, discussing competitors, and claiming something like “We are Airbnb for Uber!” Usually, this ends with emails and direct messengers asking to delete articles, statements or to change the claim: “Oh no, we are now eBay for YouTube!” A minority of aspiring businessmen try to be useful instead of imposing themselves as a speaker.
So how do you make PR effective?
In my opinion, PR starts not with a listing of topics that you can comment on, and not even with crafting a beautiful story of how you decided to start a company, but with the definition of business tasks. The entrepreneur and public relations specialist must sit down and talk through:
- what problem your business solves;
- who is the target audience;
- what tasks are facing the business;
- what are the main business goals;
- what were the milestones and what are the plans;
- who are the main speakers?
After that, based on this information, you need to form external messages. This document is usually called the Messaging Platform. It indicates everything that you want to achieve and by what means: from market info, a product description, and a company story, to brief information that is sent to a journalist prior to a meeting.
I usually also include all industry numbers, competitors’ messaging, all key business metrics, and user feedback. With such a document in hand, you can keep all your colleagues on the same page and work with different PR specialists without changing the strategy as a whole, and even more so, without creating it anew every time.
So, what is next? A PR specialist with a document like that and in constant communication with R&D, BD, product, and marketing teams, who is aware of the company’s goals, enters the information field as a real PR ninja.
Why does a startup need such a manager? There are hundreds of journalists in the US only and much more globally who cover thousands of companies and startups. Yes, they all are constantly looking for stories, but it’s still good when you have someone else to reach out to them.
Why would a VC need such a person? Even the most successful funds are looking for LPs one day. No need to say, that they are looking for good startups to invest in.
So whatever it would be – you entering a new market or attracting funds, there should be someone who knows the drill.
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