From Funding to Forbes: When is the Right Time to Hire PR?
It’s often said that if you’re joining a startup, you must be ready for a tumultuous ride – a ride full of ups and downs, twists and turns and hopefully triumph. But how do you get from that scrappy company working out of a garage, to one that sees success? While PR certainly isn’t the sole reason that companies thrive (whether that means making a product that people love, making a significant amount of money or making a public offering), a PR team can be instrumental in bringing a company to the forefront. So when is the right time to pull the trigger and hire an expert? As someone that’s worked in-house for a small startup that was in the beginning stages of receiving funding, to one that went through an IPO while on-board, I’ve come to have a few things to have in mind before making that move:
- Product, Product, Product: Do you have a product or service that actually works? One that can be showcased to the press in an easy and digestible way? If you’re not quite there yet, your company is likely still in a pre-launch phase, and unless you’re close to that “D-Day,” the amount of significant press on which a PR team could execute would be limited. Make sure that whatever you’re building is in strong enough shape to be criticized by the likes of TechCrunch, CNN and VentureBeat.
- Marketing and Monogamy: While marketing and PR often go hand-in-hand, I’ve learned from past experience that before a company hires PR, the marketing message needs to be thought through. While a PR team will massage messaging for press outreach, how the company will market to its customers (whether that’s to an 18-year old college student, or 45-year old head of IT at a tech company) needs to be in place so from a press perspective, the overall value proposition is clear and defined. It’s best for the press messaging to map back to how a product will be marketed to customers, and vice versa. Know your buyer personas and target your messaging appropriately.
- Going for the Goals: In order to succeed at anything, you should have clear goals in place from the get-go. This is no different when hiring a PR professional; you need to figure out what story you want to tell (What is the product? What’s the founding story?), who you want to reach (Venture Capitalists? Consumers?) and what success means to you. Its fine to create these goals in tandem with whoever will be handling your PR, but understand that success rarely comes without a roadmap.
- Not Enough Time in the Day: If you’re in the beginning stages of hiring PR, you’re likely fighting for enough hours in the day to see your friends and family, let alone eat dinner. That being said, it’s crucial to ensure that someone on the team has enough time to devote the time and energy to working with your PR consultant and/or team. Ideally this person drives the overall market strategy, and helps to give the PR team the right direction in order to find success.
If you’re working at a startup, you’re likely incredibly invested in the company (why else would you be there!?). And while it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of PR and marketing and trying to get people to know about your brand, it’s important to remember: don’t jump the gun. Think critically about whether you’re really ready for the media storm that could result from PR outreach – or whether it’s better to wait.