PR for Start-ups (series 2/3): Paying for PR

Aug 29, 2012
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This is the second guest article submitted by an experienced Press Relations professional  who is currently working for a prominent European PR group, and wished to remain anonymous.  

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There will come a time when you’ll have to start paying someone to do your PR. This point is usually situated somewhere between your series B and series C funding rounds, once you have the budget and no longer have the time to do it yourself. At this point, your product or service should be mature and reliable, have a significant user base and be ready to be in the spotlight.

The way you communicate has to evolve alongside your business while being in line with your overall strategy. This takes time and is part of the reason why you’ve hired a PR agency. A PR agency will help you make key decisions as to what you need to communicate about and when. This partnership needs to be transparent, open and honest, as though the agency was part of your company. You need to remain a key part of the decision-making process but your time must be used efficiently, i.e. for interviews, round tables, key notes and speaking opportunities.

Moving forward, what will be most important is managing your relationship with your PR agency. PR professionals need information in order to do their job right. Other than having a good product, you will also need to communicate at a more strategic level; at a Corporate level, to give a face and feel to the company.

Now, lets take a better look at what will make your investment in PR a success…

Choosing your PR firm

It goes without saying that the PR agency you’ve chosen has experience in communicating on behalf of companies in your industry. Your PR agency must know and have relationships with journalists, bloggers and other influencers that deal with your sector in the country you’re targeting. If you are doing PR in France, hire an agency that is based in or has offices in France. Preferably they will have a native staff with international experience thereby minimizing cultural differences when working together. Most important of all, choose an agency that inspires you and whose staff you want to work with. Remember, these people will be representing you and your company so just make sure you’re on the same page.

Kicking Off

The agency is there to create case studies, info-graphics, by-lined articles, workshops, round tables and press releases, to ensure that the communications objectives are met. The relationship commences with a kick-off meeting that covers everything from your history, product, competitors to your vision and future plans. This information will allow your agency to decide on a PR strategy and objectives, which are then translated into tactics and actions.

Any PR firm worth its salt will be ask you many questions but remember that it’s all about sharing all details and what may seem obvious to you won’t be for them (or vice versa). The more information you share with your PR agency, the more seamless your relationship will be and the better the job they’ll be able to do.

Give yourself a good month to set things up and start working with them. The time you take at the beginning will be time saved all along the way. Chances are they’ll take some of the work you’ve done already and either make it better or start from scratch. This goes from key messages to fact sheets all the way to media lists and more.

Getting some Media Training

Just because your PR agency is taking care of the tedious work of writing press releases, contacting journalists and pitching doesn’t mean your work is over. It’s now up to you to maximize the opportunities they present you with. Talking to media is not an easy task but an essential one if you are to communicate your messages efficiently and want be be taken seriously: some media training will be required. Reading some articles online is a good start and will always help. However, hiring professionals is a must. Though speaking is a gift given to most, doing so intelligently isn’t. Media training will allow you to take control of a conversation and make sure your vision reaches your audience.

Measuring Results

Qualifying the results in PR is not always straight-forward though there are obviously basic factors to take into account. The number of interviews and articles are most common but these only take into account the quantity, whereas the quality is far more relevant. The tone, messages transmitted in the article, third party endorsement, etc. will allow you to measure the quality of the article. Another more “old school” way of measuring is to convert the size of the article into the equivalent of an ad placement.

Expectations

PR is a service you pay for and who says service, says time and with time must come patience. Effective public relations is not an overnight deal, or in other words, it’s not magic. You might think you’re hot shit but truth is journalists probably don’t and it’s up to you and your new PR agency to change their minds. Remember that just because you hired a PR agency doesn’t mean you’ll be on France 2 or TF1, let alone on the front page of Les Echos. PR agencies hire consultants not magicians.

We’ve all seen start-ups make it to prime-time news out of the blue. Ultimately, this has more to do with luck and market coincidence than good PR. The point here is that luck is not what you’re looking for. What you’re looking for is consistency. You want consistency so that you stay in control of what your saying and what’s being said about you. At this point in  the game, PR is not about immediate results but about the long term impact it will have on your companies reputation and public image.

You’ll get out of your PR agency what you put into it. You have to look at the PR agency you are hiring as an extension of your company. Your relationship has to be as seamless as possible so that an efficient 2 way conversation can take place. Share, trust, educate and think long term. It’s not about the start-up you are today but the company you will be tomorrow and your PR agency can help you get there.