Why this ‘PR guy’ agrees with Mark Cuban

Today I was reading a piece on LinkedIn where a PR professional was explaining why he disagreed with Mark Cuban’s assertion that startups should never hire a PR firm.  I found myself agreeing – with Mark Cuban.

The author of the piece I was reading, written recently, was talking about a bullet point in an article published in Entrepreneur magazine more than two years ago. It was called Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Startups.  He was explaining that PR professionals play a valuable role in helping early-stage businesses to grow.  I agree. In part.  But what he was describing wasn’t public relations it was publicity – media coverage. Awareness. Brand-building.  Call it what you will the majority of the companies that claim to sell PR are actually in the publicity game.  On that basis, I wholeheartedly agree with Mark.

I wrote a piece recently that explains what PR companies don’t tell their prospects or customers.  Over the last few days I’ve become even more convinced that the traditional PR industry is scared to death that you’ll discover these things.  It is the key to their business model and without the illusion of value the industry as we know it quickly unravels.

The author of the piece I read today – I would mention him by name but I can’t find the post again*.  Having viewed it via the LinkedIn app on my phone it updated between leaving the subway and getting on the bus – makes some interesting points about the value of using strategic communications strategists, and I agree with that.  Startups need advice on building the relationships they need to grow their business; they need help in communicating their value proposition, developing messaging, figure out how to deliver it and at the right time for the audience.  But, it’s not what most PR companies offer.

The majority offer, at best, a tactical approach that focuses on pitching journalists [a single audience or public] in order to get the right to talk with every other one of a company’s audiences.  What’s more most PR companies act as a barrier between an organization and journalists, rather than helping their customers to build relationships with journalists or any of an early-stage business’ critical audience groups. Imagine if every conversation you had with the important people in your life used the same ‘strategy’.  Your relationships were managed by a third-party and then had to be approved by another arbiter who decided whether your message would be passed on to the intended audience.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!  It’s definitely unworkable.

Yet, for this ‘strategy’ they charge exorbitant amounts of money. Every month. And, they ask for a minimum commitment, irrespective of whether the arrangement delivers any value.

This is, I suspect, why Mark Cuban says that startups can do without it.  And it is why this PR guy agrees.

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*I spent about 30 minutes looking for it using the information I remembered – the company was called UberStrategy, and the author was called Mario – and still can’t find it. Everything you need to know about the effectiveness of ‘awareness’ -based public relations [or publicity as it should accurately be described] is demonstrated right there. When I type UberStrategy into Google I get results about taxicab industry disruptor Uber’s business strategy.

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