Ready to Hire A PR Firm? Commit to These 6 Things First

You’re ready to get the word out about your startup. You have the budget to hire a PR firm. Should be easy enough to launch a program and see results, right?

Not quite.

While budget and a desire for PR are great, they’re not the only two things you need for success. We find that startups get better and faster results from the jump when they’re willing to commit to these six things.

1: Recruit Willing Thought Leaders

CEOs, founders, and other executives are the linchpins of a PR program because they’re the ones who speak or write publicly on behalf of your startup.

To maximize your PR program’s success, you should identify three to four thought leaders who want to participate. They’ll spend a couple of hours per week on…

  • Interview prep calls with the PR agency (~20 minutes per interview).
  • Interviews with reporters and podcasts (~30 minutes per interview).
  • Reading industry news (~15 minutes per day).
  • Capturing their thoughts on industry news and trends, and sharing those with the PR agency (~30 minutes per week).
  • Informational calls to guide written materials, like press releases, Q+As, and contributed articles. (~30 minutes each).
  • Reviewing written materials (~15 minutes each depending on length).

If your thought leaders need convincing, Edelman found that thought leadership can strengthen a business’s reputation and spark meaningful interactions that lead to tangible business results. And over half of C-level executives spend more time reading thought leadership now than they did before the pandemic.

2: Get Customers on Board

Championing your customers is a great PR strategy.

While it’s not absolutely necessary to have customers willing to talk about their work with you at the start of a PR program, their involvement is one of the most effective ways to increase your reputation and credibility.

But some customers make for better PR than others. Try to find ones that are…

  • Willing to share quantifiable success metrics publicly, like revenue generated, net promoter score increase, etc.
  • Excited and happy about the work they do with your startup.
  • Willing and able to contribute about two hours in total to each PR opportunity.

If you’re curious about how customer PR comes to life, check out the work we’ve done with our B2B startup clients:

Even if you can’t mention your client’s name publicly, sometimes cool, flashy tech can be enough to get a reporter interested. Such as this Forbes story with our client Azumo: Busy Nav Screen? Get Ready For Information Everywhere In Your Car.

3: Agree on Messaging

While your startup’s messaging will likely change over time and as you grow, it’s a good idea to have marketing and leadership align before you start a PR program. That messaging will inform everything from pitch ideas and press releases to what your thought leaders say to reporters during interviews.

Messaging consistency pays dividends in the long run because it makes it easier for reporters and readers to remember what you do. When reporters remember what you do, they can better assess which stories you might be able to comment on and proactively reach out when one comes up.

For example, a former Propllr client did Amazon Web Services (AWS) consulting. Because we were consistent with messaging and what their thought leaders were able to speak on, reporters from Insider to Wall Street Journal to CRN reached out to us regularly to ask for comments for stories about AWS and other public cloud providers. This led to consistent PR opportunities and placements. And because this client’s marketing team and leadership had agreement on messaging, they knew which opportunities to take to further their strategic goals and which to turn down.

4: Write Less, Say More

With a contributed article, press release, or other written PR material, it’s tempting to squeeze in every possible idea you can to make sure your audience knows what you’re talking about. But more words simply mean that your audience must spend more time discerning what you’re trying to say and why it’s valuable to them.

Coupled with the fact that the human attention span is shorter than ever (about eight seconds), it’s important for written PR materials to be clear and concise.

Pro tip: Next time you’re writing for PR, try cutting the number of words in half. The shorter version may not be the final one, but the exercise will force you to consider which words you really need.

5: Be Open-Minded About PR Opportunities

Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and the like are typically a startup’s dream placements. But they’re not right for every program. For example, Wall Street Journal typically covers publicly traded companies.

Some startups find that they’re better able to achieve their strategic goals by aiming for outlets with more niche, targeted audiences, including trade publications and podcasts.

While industry trade publications have a smaller readership compared with the New York Times, think about this way: Is it better to reach 100 people, many of whom may not be high-quality leads? Or 10 people, all of whom could be potential customers?

For example, one of our clients asked us to move away from top-tier outreach because they found that those types of placements don’t move the needle for them. Those placements take a lot of time and effort to secure, and often result in just a small mention. That’s not to say there’s no value in top-tier placements, but this client finds that placements in trade publications and podcasts allow them to better establish credibility and authority with their target audience.

6: Take a (Calculated) Risk

Edelman found nearly two in five decision makers feel that the market is oversaturated with thought leadership content. And three in five said that only half of the thought leadership content they read provides valuable insights.

So how do you get your message out there, without getting lost in the noise?

A Propllr client worked with a large public cloud provider. During an interview with Wall Street Journal, one of their executives was very honest about how the public cloud provider never sent them any business, but wanted to see their books. After the interview, the reporter told our client that they talk to a lot of boring executives, and thanked our client for “actually having something interesting to say.” Then our client was quoted and featured prominently in the reporter’s story.

I’m not suggesting that you publicly bash your business partner. But this example illustrates how a calculated risk can help your startup stand out, especially when talking to reporters.

Let’s Get Started

Your startup might not be able to do all six of these things I’ve covered, but not to worry. It’s still possible to get great results by focusing on what your startup is able to contribute to a PR program.

One of our clients, for example, makes workplace safety and compliance software, and its clients are understandably reluctant to talk about safety outcomes publicly. This client compensates by ensuring its thought leaders are willing and able to contribute time to PR initiatives – ultimately resulting in a steady and frequent drumbeat of placements.

Interested in getting your startup’s PR program off the ground? Get in touch.