It’s important to look at your expectations versus reality when it comes to working with an outside public relations firm. As far as expectations go, millennial entrepreneurs may think working with a PR pro means overnight success for their business: landing their startup a cover story in The New York Times, getting influencers talking about their products or services nonstop, and boosting their social media following to a million followers overnight!
The reality, of course, is that none of that happens when you first sign on to work with a PR firm. It takes time and understanding for the team to tell your brand’s story and build strong rapports with relevant reporters. You also need to strategize on other initiatives that can benefit your brand, since public relations means much more than landing a few great media mentions.
If you’re a millennial entrepreneur thinking that the next best step for your startup is working with a PR firm, here’s what you need to consider before fully signing on.
What’s your brand’s story?
You know your startup is amazing, but why should anyone else care about it? Do you know your brand’s story backwards and forwards? Is the story compelling or unique? What audience are you trying to reach?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might want to leverage the expertise of a PR firm. Experienced executives at an established PR firm will have the writing chops to help pitch your story. They will also have the understanding on how to cover your brand’s ever-evolving narrative, which can include news on product launches, partnerships, or advertising campaigns, and get those releases in the hands of the right media contacts.
What are your long-term PR goals?
Beyond your brand’s story, you should also consider your long-term PR goals. Are you using public relations to increase brand awareness or sales, or to simply to stay ahead of your competition? Do your research on PR firms that demonstrate proven results and understand how your industry and business works, who also have a good reputation and a solid, relevant client roster. Then, reach out to the ones you believe would be the best fit with an introductory call or email before meeting in-person to discuss your strategy together.
The best public relations executives understand exactly what you want to achieve, and help you figure it out if you don’t already know. They also serve as the eyes, ears and mouthpiece of your brand. They can assist with press hits in digital and print on a national and regional basis, write press releases, coordinate for events and launch parties, provide on-camera media training, create and analyze content for your blog and social media accounts, and monitor what is being said about your brand on and offline.
Can you DIY your public relations efforts?
If you happen to be a particularly stellar writer and storyteller, you may consider skipping traditional PR in favor of DIY public relations. This will help cut back on expenses and allow you to establish relationships directly with reporters and editors.
However, should you choose to do your own PR, keep in mind that you’ll still need to invest a significant amount of time into the process. The story that you tell can’t be copied and pasted into emails for every reporter, but should be tailored appropriately for the outlet’s needs. Make sure that you’re setting aside enough time to thoughtfully take on these efforts.
Do you have the budget for PR?
Inevitably, you will have to discuss the financial aspect of public relations before you can be brought on as a client. Traditional PR firms require a retainer (six months of the firm’s services) to be paid upfront, along with onboarding fees and monthly rates. Not every PR firm may operate like this, of course, but the bottom line is that you do have to pay if you want their services.
For millennial entrepreneurs especially, this means seriously reviewing your budget before agreeing to anything further. If you’re struggling with sales, have other areas of your business that need to be invested in first like new equipment, or don’t have much news to share, you might want to hold off until you’re a bit more stabilized. However, if you do have the budget set aside and a strategy and story in place for your brand then by all means go for it!