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Startups and Public Relations

Posted: November 10, 2014, 5:40 p.m.
by Michelle Sue Agee.

As a slightly seasoned, soon-to-be public relations professional, I spend much time deciphering an array of positive and negative public relations scenarios that brands have created for themselves. These brands are either established or wrangling their sudden popularity – the degree of scrutiny does not vary.

For startups and their entrepreneurs, public relations is needed earlier than often perceived. I recently conducted an Internet search that revealed an inconsistency on when, why and how startups should integrate public relations within their business strategy.

Public relations is a timely investment, and it covers key areas of the business such as brand messaging and relationship management.

My advice: Declare your story early.
Founders will need to know key messaging and anecdotes to attract investors, the press and their future clients. It is costly to outsource public relations. Can they develop and manage their brand alone? Yes and no.

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Yes. Public relations can be handled internally. Budget constraints may inhibit hiring a consultant. . . skilled, would-be marketers can suffice to develop awareness, key messaging and standard collateral. Even hiring an English major is a step forward when establishing a startups’ voice and place within their market. This, however, will not be a long-term solution.

Recently a number of cost-effective public relations startups have surfaced to serve tech startups. PressFriendly , for example, provides software for startups with limited resources to manage their brand. “We’ve built a solution for founders or early marketing people so they don’t need to hire an agency,” cofounder Joel Andren said in an interview for Venture Beat. “We teach them how to do their own PR and build relationships with reporters in a way that is smarter and more automated. Startups now have another choice, between doing it themselves and an agency.”

No. Anyone can tell a story. Not everyone can tell it well. The founder and all leadership of a business must be able to tell their brand’s story in a compelling way as it begins to gain traction — this will trickle down to employees, the first line of brand advocates. Though services like PressFriendly provide building blocks to successfully pitch their stories, hands on experience is no replacement .

“Once you understand how PR is essential to your business, then you prioritize that within your budget. And just because your budget is small, doesn’t mean you can’t hire a firm.” said Mindy Fletcher in PR 101 for Startups . Relationship management is tough, complex and time-consuming. A successful startup proves it is different and provides exclusive, newsworthy content to journalists. Then, it remains consistent with its messaging as brand awareness expands and attracts investors.

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