22
Dec

Telling the Story–Why Startups Need PR

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The first thing I do when learning about a new company is check its Alexa ranking. The second thing I do is visit the web site and click on Press Room. I want to see what the company has been doing lately. Then I often look at the In the News section to see what media coverage they might be getting and I like to read about the management team and investors.

But too many companies don’t even have a Press Room section on their web site. Literally every company that I work does a sub-par job of telling their story through press releases. I think too many PR firms have led us all to believe that press releases alone are not worth anything. They want us to believe that the only thing that matters is their relationships with the media which can lead to getting our news releases published and stories being written about us.

While the value of well done PR is enormous, it is often very expensive–way too expensive for most startup companies, which is why, I believe, almost all of them neglect it. (Except for SearchGuy.com, a publicly traded search engine company with few employees, very little revenue, almost no site traffic–but somehow they try to maintain their market capitalization by issuing a press release every couple of weeks–but that’s another story.)

I see huge opportunities here.

We are starting a company to address this issue. We want all CEOs of small companies to be able to afford our PR service. We are designing software that will make it easy to choose a PR template (from hundreds or thousands), fill in some blanks, create some quotes, and have a press release prepared. The best part of this is the release will show up automatically not only on the company’s own web site (which is important!) but also on several other web sites including Google News! (That is the “secret sauce” that I won’t be disclosing.)

Some of my readers have wondered if disclosing our ideas and plans too early might be costly to us, and in fact, might create competition for us down the road, and thus lessen our company’s valuation.

In this case, if another firm starts offering turn-key press release creation and distribution services that small businesses can afford then we may skip this opportunity and instead focus on training and encouraging all our portfolio companies to use such a service. But we haven’t found such a service yet.

A consistent stream of press releases that contain significant announcements about products, customers, partnerships, trends, statistics, and good news can help a company gain momentum with, generate interest from, and reinforce the company’s value to several different audiences:

  • Potential employees
  • Current and potential customers
  • Investors or potential investors
  • Strategic partners
  • And of course, the media

If you are aware of startup PR firms that are affordable please let me know. If you find this concept interesting and want to be considered as part of our startup team, please contact me.

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8 Responses

  1. For what its worth, there is a free press release distribution service at http://www.prweb.com. Although I haven’t used PRWeb in awhile, I should note that I don’t remember PRWeb adding value such as templates for press releases, auto syndication to other sites, and follow-ups to the press. Depending on a company’s strategy for PR, the importance may be weighed differently.

    -Steve Shu

  2. I’ve been working in PR for nearly 12 years now – mainly tech companies – b2b, consumer and the like. I can tell you from experience that the second of your ideas – focus(ing) on training and encouraging all our portfolio companies to use such a service – makes a lot of sense.

    A service that can just help small companies just get releases out and get them on the major news sites (Google, etc.) would fill a huge void between the big agencies and the small fish in this industry.

    Many companies in the start-up phase enter into a relationship with a PR agency without any realistic expecations of what they can accomplish or idea of how much work it takes to get their message out to their media targets. Part of the blame rests with agencies that set unrealistic expectations.

    Setting expectations right – just get the releases out and create a steady stream of news – and helping small companies understand what PR entails and how it works – is a great idea.

  3. Interesting write up. I agree that a release service is a valuable tool for startups that cannot afford to work with a PR firm. It is also important to point out that messaging is so so so very important. For the startup that does not have the funds to engage a firm, why not educate them on how to develop a concise messaging platform that differentiates them from the competition and clearly communicates the value of what they are announcing. Startups also need to understand that release placement is only the first step. A good PR firm focuses on what is happening in the marketplace when they pitch the media. They do their best to tie story ideas into trends that will ultimately get the placements and the credibility (whether in the media or with analysts) that every startup is looking for.

    So I suggest we form a committee and put together a class that will provide startups with the “toolbox” they need to get started. PR 101.

    Anyone interested?

  4. Interesting write up. I agree that a release service is a valuable tool for startups that cannot afford to work with a PR firm. It is also important to point out that messaging is so so so very important. For the startup that does not have the funds to engage a firm, why not educate them on how to develop a concise messaging platform that differentiates them from the competition and clearly communicates the value of what they are announcing. Startups also need to understand that release placement is only the first step. A good PR firm focuses on what is happening in the marketplace when they pitch the media. They do their best to tie story ideas into trends that will ultimately get the placements and the credibility (whether in the media or with analysts) that every startup is looking for.

    So I suggest we form a committee and put together a class that will provide startups with the “toolbox” they need to get started. PR 101.

    Anyone interested?

  5. PR 101 is be a good start, but small business owners have to realize that PR is an art, not a science. Many people thing you can plug X and Y into a magic PR formula and get the correct answer. However, I agree that a strong messaging platform and a couple of useful tools is a good start. I’d be willing to help.

  6. Although this comment is about 2 years older than your original post Paul, I am just realizing the value and potential for the type of company you proposed here, and your connectpr.com company. But I believe there is a reason that you haven’t gotten the company off the ground yet. I posted about it on my blog.

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