When should a startup hire a PR agency?

It’s not always easy for startups to know when to hire a PR agency. Because startups are, well, just starting, they don’t have the cash flow that more established companies have in order to pursue a robust PR strategy.

Still, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, PR is one the single best investments you can make in getting the word out about your new business to a wide (and motivated!) audience.

So, regardless of whether you’re a startup in tech, food or services, you should be ready to fire up the PR machine to get the buzz going.

To help you know when it’s time to hire a PR agency, here are some hints about what kinds of events and milestones that normally indicate you are ready for prime-time:

PR Agency Tip: Patents. If you are a tech startup and have been granted a patent, then that is a great time to reach out to local and national trade media outlets. But don’t wait long to announce the patent – news is of interest only if it’s fresh!

PR Agency Tip: Funding. Some startups get an initial round of funding from Angel investors, also known as a Series A Round (click for PR tips on a startup Series A). A Series A is often a startup’s best shot at getting media mentions in local and national news outlets. Depending upon the funding amount, a tech firm could get picked up in tech blogs like TechCrunch or VentureBeat. But the amount has to be sizable – in excess of 7-figures – or it won’t impress the ‘all-star’ tech bloggers who regularly announce $10M capital raises. A PR agency will help line up interviews but enough time must be allotted to help the agency coordinate with the bloggers’ calendars.

PR Agency Tip: Real Estate. If you’re a bar, restaurant, or even a cross-fit gym, real estate is part of your startup. Whenever you negotiate a lease for your new location, be sure to let your PR person work up an announcement to share with the local news media. Real estate is still a big deal for media outlets because it’s their job to report on what’s new in the community.

PR Agency Tip: New Hires. Communities care about jobs. Depending upon the size of your community, hiring 5-10 new staff could be a big deal. If you’re in a large city like Houston or Chicago, then that number would need to be closer to 50-100, which is admittedly not an easy task for most startups but is still worth keeping in mind. If you are hiring, then a PR person should be working with your marketing team to leverage the hiring announcement and tie it to your broader business message.

PR Agency Tip: Product or Service Launch. Not all startups have a product or service to launch at first. When that time comes, however, be sure to have a PR agency on board to help you prepare for the announcement. A press release would be good to have, plus a media kit consisting of executive bios, company fact sheet and media Q&A – these are a minimum requirement for a successful product or service launch. You might also consider some media training for your company C-Suite so they are ready to go in front of the news cameras; when the camera is running, some people tend to get tongue-tied.

PR Agency Tip: Trade Show. Some startups decide to attend tradeshows in order to get directly in front of customers in hopes of generating leads and new revenue. Don’t forget to address the other side of the trade-show coin – media outlets! Plenty of trade pubs and bloggers regularly attend industry trade shows in order to find out what’s new and interesting in the industry they cover. That’s a perfect opportunity for a PR agency to a) determine which media are planning to attend, b) arrange face-to-face discussions with select media and c) maximize the exposure you receive in the industry media with pre and post-event media coordination. Allow a PR agency a good month to prepare for the event as it takes time to engage with the media and book time for face-to-face meetings.

PR Agency Tip: Awards & Accomplishments. Some startups win awards from recognized industry media. Think Paul Qui winning Top Chef on Bravo TV and all the accolades he won that eventually led to his startup – Qui Austin. Or consider the case of Thomas Brown, a homebuilder and realtor who appeared on Season 2 of Brother Vs. Brother (a spin-off of the wildly popular Property Brothers show on HGTV). Thomas was interviewed on Austin’s local ABC affiliate KVUE News the day of his first appearance on Brother Vs. Brother. He also received numerous mentions in local media outlets ranging from a business journal to a popular daily cultural blog called Culturemap Austin. Moral of the story? Work closely with your PR resource and start early enough to maximize the buzz!

Startups have plenty of opportunities to share with media outlets. The trick is working with the right PR resource early enough in the process of launching in order to create a smart, coordinated PR strategy that accomplishes your growth goals – both in brand awareness and revenue.

Got any questions about hiring a PR agency? Feel free to share them below or reach out to me at info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009 as one of the only PR agencies in the country to provide performance-based PR pricing. In 2010, Dave launched PR over Coffee to provide small business PR advice so that entrepreneurs and startups could practice “DIY” PR and promote themselves directly to media outlets. For more information about Dave or PR over Coffee, email info(@)PRoverCoffee.com.

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