10 Things PR Agencies Don’t Tell Startups & Smallbiz

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Public relations can help an entrepreneur grow their business – but there are often huge barriers to entry.  Retainers are expensive, it is often unclear what a PR agency does, and many small businesses don’t feel they’ve the outcomes they wanted from public relations.

Here are ten things you should know before hiring a PR agency for your startup or small business.

1. If the first question an agency asks is, ‘what’s your budget?’ keep looking.

2. PR is about more than just media relations.  Most agencies sell media pitching services [publicity] and call it public relations.  If they don’t understand the fundamentals of public relations and are unlikely to be able to help you build the relationships you need to grow your business.

3.You don’t have to pay for a retainer.  Public relations programs should ebb and flow in parallel with your business and a retainer is simply a revenue guarantee for the agency.

4. Understand what you want the outcomes of a PR program to be. Set commercial objectives, not just hard to measure ‘awareness’ or ‘coverage’ or, the PR agency favourite, thought-leadership!

5. Expect to do some ground work before you do any outbound PR work.  Defining your audiences, fine-tuning your value proposition, getting the message right and figuring out the best way to deliver it are key pieces of an effective PR program.

6. The value of a public relations professional is in the advice you get, not in the activity done on your behalf. Most agencies charge based on the volume of activity they do, not on the quality of the advice they give.

7. PR is about more than just media relations.  Most agencies sell media pitching services [publicity] and call it public relations.  If they don’t understand the fundamentals of public relations and are unlikely to be able to help you build the relationships you need to grow your business.

8. You should be doing your own media outreach. Public relations is a strategic process of building relationships and if somebody else does your media work THEY have the relationships.

Journalists would also much rather to talk with you than a paid spokesperson. Hiring a PR agency often puts another barrier between you and the people who will help you grow your business.

9. Public relations should be something that touches all parts of your business – from sales to marketing, customer service to front of house.

10. Less is, often, more.  Quality always tops quantity and an effective PR plan will deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time and using the right delivery mechanism.

Also, review what you’re doing regularly.  Public relations agencies traditionally do annual reviews but in today’s real-time internet world you should be reviewing your PR plan at least every 30 days. It will enable you to make small tweaks and changes that will increase its effectiveness.

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