Mark Cuban sent waves through the public relations community when he advised startups not to hire a PR agency. In an article in The Next Web refuting Cuban’s position, “Why Mark Cuban is Wrong About Startups and PR”, Conrad Egusa explained that Cuban’s vision of PR was not realistic for startups, because of the time commitment involved. Most startups are overwhelmed as it is without the added burden of public relations. Egusa aptly stated, “…no serious businessperson, and especially not Mark Cuban, will tell you that media relations aren’t vital to success.”
Egusa cites Mark Suster’s article “The Silent Benefits of PR”, as an explanation for the financial rewards that come with a public relations campaign. His article is one that everyone should read. Mark Suster made a compelling case for why every business should make public relations a central focus, but some of the points, like mergers and acquisitions and future PR seem too far off for cash-strapped startups to justify hiring a PR agency. Another reason he cited was improved staff morale, which is certainly a good thing, but hard to quantify when justifying how to spend a startup’s budget.
Rather than allow startups to push off the idea of a public relations campaign until next month, next quarter, or next year, I felt like startups should know why they should pay for PR now.
- New businesses are struggling to establish credibility with everyone—investors, potential clients and customers, and probably even their parents. Advertising does not offer credibility. While email marketing, blog posts, and relevant social media posts can slowly build thought leadership, it still isn’t seen as an accomplishment, and the public is aware of the fact that there are no barriers to these methods of communication. Coverage in a major news outlet is like a third-party stamp of approval that says that a business is worthwhile. What would your reaction be if your friend told you they just wrote a new blog post? How would your reaction differ if they told you they were just mentioned in USA Today or wrote the exact same story, but instead of publishing it on their blog, published it in an outlet like Entrepreneur? Every one of your potential clients, customers, and investors will have this same difference in reaction.
- Increased sales. If your product or service is revolutionary enough that it grabs people’s attention when they read about, sales will immediately follow. If your product or service isn’t vastly different from everything out on the market, sales will follow with continued effort and coverage as your name becomes known.
- A critical piece in your marketing puzzle. Every story written about your company, every guest piece you write, and every interview you do provides you with something to share in your company newsletter, to build your thought leadership on social media, and to add clippings to your website (which will look good when a potential client, customer, or investor is checking you out).
Beyond that, news sites have much higher search rankings than the average website. When an article about your company first publishes, there will be a higher number of reads than you would have gotten on your own site and more shares than you could have gotten through your own social media channels. After that, however, people who are searching for keywords related to the product or service you offer will stumble on an article about you before your competitors, who also can’t compete with the search rankings of the big news outlets. For me, that means that readers will typically connect with me on LinkedIn and book a free 30-minute consultation. For other types of businesses, it may result in them purchasing the product, downloading the app, or reaching out for more information.
While some clients have the right story at the right time and achieve amazing results in the first week of their campaign—I can’t say it never happens, because it has happened for many of our clients—for the vast majority of startups, PR is a slow-building process. Like a snowball, the longer it rolls, the more it collects each time, as the brand becomes familiar and credible. Startups can’t afford to wait until later to start the building process, nor can they afford to miss out on the coverage that comes from being a startup—a new business or a new product is, often, news; whereas, a mid-sized company that has finally decided they can afford PR is no longer news. domain owner data .