A public relations + marketing checklist for startup & smallbiz founders

A  read lots of articles about public relations for startups and early-stage businesses, offering entrepreneurs tips and advice on how to best promote their companies.  Most of them focus on the media piece [the publicity] rather than the public relations part [the relationship building] but this piece from Founderdating.com, written by Talentbin’s Peter Kazanjy stood out.

I agree with Peter that startups do not need a PR agency for launch.  I’d argue that most small businesses don’t need a PR agency on retainer, period – but that’s another matter. What they need is good advice – and there is a real shortage of that, both from entrepreneurs that have successfully launched and grown a business and seasoned ‘PR’ professionals alike.  This shouldn’t come as too much of  a surprise when most PR people don’t even appear to understand what it is they are supposed to be doing.

Much of what Peter says is good, solid, advice for early-stage companies – covering things like the narrative [I’ll record a PR Espresso about this later], the pitch, press release, some visuals, third-party validation and a pitch list. But, it doesn’t actually talk about public relations; it covers publicity.  It also fails to address the most important pieces of the jigsaw.

Creating a pitch email is not rocket science [the sample Peter gives isn’t great example]; a press release can be written by a fifth-grade student and these days, press contact details are readily available.

The challenge is to understand what you should be saying, to whom you should be saying it to, how you should say it, and how to deliver it [to the ultimate audience. The journalist is not your audience they are a delivery mechanism!].  This is where you need some help from a specialist.

Effective public relations is about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time and using the right delivery mechanism.  It is about building relationships – not publicity.  It is about listening to your audiences and communicating in a language and style that they do and saying what they want to hear, not what you – necessarily – want to say.

If you don’t get this right then all of the content in the world won’t work.  You can pitch every conceivable journalist without getting the coverage you want.  Without the right message, delivered to the right audience, at the right time via the right channels a business won’t build the relationships it needs to help it flourish.  Your marketing content will fail to encourage people to take the actions you want them to.

So, while early-stage businesses don’t need a PR company on retainer, they would do well to get advice on creating a value proposition, messaging and content that will help make them build relationships, have their audience take action on their behalf and secure the the publicity  – and the media relationships – they want.




Lyndon Johnson is the founder and general manager of COMMS.BAR™.

COMMS.BAR provides early-stage companies with right size, right time communications strategy advice to help them figure out what they need to do, when they need to do it and remove any unknowns from their strategy. The company is based in Toronto, Ontario.

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