Do big PR firms work for startups? Should your startup hire a big PR firm? The siren song of larger, global PR firms, with their flashy results are tempting to many, but there are good reasons startups should avoid them, at least until they have tens of thousands of PR dollars to spend monthly on a firm, at which point, they will no longer be a startup.
If you have a startup looking for a PR firm, you can do better than a big firm. Here’s why.
Face it; some emails will never be read. Don't let yours be one of them. Here are seven deadly mistakes email marketers make.
1. The Subject Line Doesn't Get to the Point In Time - The first few words have to compel the reader to keep reading and open your email. If you're having a 25% off sale, lead with the words: "25% off." Don't lead with the words: "Today only, get a special, once-a-year promotion and enjoy 25% off your entire purchase."
Tis’ the season for pumpkin spice, Autumn leaves, peppermint, and eggnog everything. But there’s more to running successful holiday campaigns than slapping a red and green bow on your products and expecting them to sell. Here are three communications secrets to creating compelling holiday messaging that speaks to your audience, drives more conversions, and creates life-long customers.
Whether you run a startup, a mid-size consumer product company, or another kind of successfully growing brand, you know how competitive the holiday season gets. Here are three tips to making your brand stand out during the holiday season.
Face it; there are a lot of emails that will never be read. Don't let yours be one of them. Here are seven deadly mistakes email marketers make.
1. Your Subject Line Is Pointless.
The first few words have to compel the reader to keep reading and open your email. If you're having a 25% off sale, lead with the words: "25% off." Don't lead with the words: "Today only, get a special, once-a-year promotion for 25% off your entire purchase."
2. Your Preview Text Wastes Space.
You've seen it; that text that previews an email's content. Too many n00b brands and some established ones waste that space with boilerplate, unsubscribe text, or other, non-essential information. This is often a remnant of the email sending service you are using. Send a test to yourself before sending the email to a group. If the preview text is not your immediate content, modify your template so that information is placed elsewhere. Preview text should always be compelling. -- mac windows, gmail, outlook, iPhone Android
Makers are talented at their craft, but sometimes they can use a little help with marketing. Here are seven pro marketing tips to help makers maximize their sales and engagement.
1. Make a Calendar.
Whether you're a cosplay prop-maker, a quilter, a knitter, a carver... plan your year out and give your audience something fresh every season (or more often if you can).
Every marketing director thinks their promo videos are great, but when was the last time you sat through another company's entire video ad and actually cared?
Don't waste your target market's time or brain power. Here are 8 tips that will make your next promotional video more successful, profitable, and compelling.
You've survived the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and even earned your startup a few media mentions in the process. You're finally taking off. As far as you're concerned, your name belongs up there with Musk, Zuckerberg, and Curie.
You may think the bulk of your PR work is done for the year, but it's only just begun. The difference between startups that flicker and fade and those who become household brands is all about media presence–continued media presence. Here are the most common PR mistakes startups make after CES.
Introducing the media to your startup is an important job–one that shouldn’t be done without careful research and consideration. Knowing what to expect from a potential PR firm is often challenging for startups. Here are some must-ask questions to address with any PR firm your startup is thinking of working with.
Who will do most of the daily work of promoting my startup?
Large PR firms often have interns and in-experienced people on-hand to conduct research, preform initial pitches, and manage smaller accounts. Since you’re paying a PR firm to represent you, you should know what you’re paying for and how much of your account will be handled by “underlings” versus senior management.
How often will I see “top leadership” after the initial meeting?
Top leadership in PR firms are often very good at “selling and closing deals” with clients, but are sometimes MIA from your regular meetings. This can be cost-effective for startups, but it can also be a sign that a PR firm isn’t a good fit for your startup.
What kind of reporters will be pitched for my stories?
Unless your startup is incredibly limited and specific, chances are, it will appeal to many “verticals” of reporting. If a PR firm says they’ll focus on only “tech reporters” or reporters who cover “the startup space,” you’re limiting your potential. Look for PR firms that focus on specific reporter verticals that encompass many significant areas of your startup’s potential. Examples: Health-tech, Android, iPhone, Mobile Computing, Telecommunications, Early Childhood Education, Cardiology. Get specific.
Who have you recently worked with that’s like my startup?
You don’t want to be a PR firm’s “first rodeo.” Look for past and current clients who have similar business structure, audience, or outlook as your startup. They don’t have to be a competitor, but it shouldn’t be a stretch for a PR firm to work with your startup if they’ve worked with similar brands in the past.
How do you define success for a startup like me, in say, six months?
This question will get you on the same page, fast. If they say they imagine you’ll have an article or two in a prominent blog in the coming months, that’s pretty slow. On the flip-side, if they promise thousands of media placements, that might be over-promising. Look for a PR firm that listens to the kind of business goals you have, and can align their PR expectations to your goals. Of course, PR firms can’t guarantee that reporters will “write” but they should be nimble enough to adjust strategies and tactics to get your startup media attention.
What is it about my startup that makes you want to work with us?
Of course, PR firms need to make money, but that can’t be the driving reason for a firm to work with you as opposed to other brands. PR firms should have specific answers as to what it is about your startup that they find refreshing, interesting, sell-able, and compelling. If they can’t answer this, they don’t know “you for you.” Don’t work with them in this case, because they’re not a good fit.
Are there any concerns you have with working with a startup like mine?
This is a good “catch all” question that may provide insight into something you missed or that they weren’t otherwise comfortable talking about.
The bottom line:
Working with a PR firm is a partnership built on communication and honesty. Find a firm that is easy to work with and that knows how to work with you to get the results your brand needs. Like any good lasting relationship, it’s worth the time and effort.
- By Jennifer L. Jacobson, Founder of Jacobson Communication
1. The best PR firms are really big.
Choosing a big PR firm can be a dangerous choice for a startup for three reasons: 1. Big PR firms are expensive for cost-conscious startups. 2. Big PR firms are focused on their big, name-brand clients, because they look good, and they pay well. 3. Most big PR firms don’t specialize in the nuances of startups. While they may have fancy reports and a fleet of underlings to meet with you regularly, big PR firms don’t usually understand the specific needs of budding entrepreneurship associated with startups. You’re better off looking for PR firms that specialize in, and have results for companies of a similar size and focus to yours.
2. Celebrities and big brands work with this firm so they must be good.
The PR needs of celebrities and established brands have little in common with the PR needs of startups. Endorsements, damage control, product launches within an established brand, and ongoing brand maintenance are their primary focus. Startups usually need PR that introduces them to the world and establishes them as a thought leader in their industry. Popular brand names may sound sexy, but the PR strategies that make them successful have little in common with the PR strategies that make new startups successful.
Also consider that celebrities and big brands spend millions annually on communications, marketing infrastructure, market research, endorsements, and public relations. The work of their PR firm only plays a small part in their success.
3. A PR firm should operate without much input.
PR is not a one-size-fits-all solution to getting your startup noticed. Each startup is unique, and a good PR firm will need to get spend time with you and get to know your brand, your goals, your industry, and more, in order to make you identify what makes you special and help you stand out from the competition. Expect to meet with them regularly and don’t be surprised when they ask questions about why your startup exists, what problem you solve, and how you’re different than others.
4. My startup is too secret to talk about with the PR firm.
PR firms need to know what your company does, how it does it, why it exists, and how it’s better than the competition. While you may not need to disclose each of the secret sauce ingredients directly, your PR firm needs to be able to talk with reporters and make a solid case as to why your product is better than the competition. Warning: Reporters can see through vague marketing speak, so get specific. If your startup has a secret product or solution still in development, and not yet ready to be made public, be sure to tell your PR firm when it can be made public.
5. PR should be cheap because I'm a startup.
Public relations is often the first thing people see when they meet your startup. While you can save money on things like office supplies and company lunches, public relations, can be an embarrassing place to scrimp because it’s so very “public.” It’s like wearing a ragged dirty shirt to a pitch demo. Sure you can do it, but it’s not a good idea. Think of a PR firm as you would a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant. You want good results, which come from experience, intelligence, and the ability to get the job done right. Price is a very small part of what is truly important when hiring a PR firm. According to one article: “Retainer fees for starups tend to range between $5,000 and $10,000.”
6. I should only pay for placements.
Many startups hesitate to pay for public relations work, as it is not a guarantee of media placements. As a result, some startups consider a pay-to-play option. Pay-to-play means a firm only gets paid for the media placements they get a client. Most publications frown on the practice. Some publications will even blacklist PR people who get paid per story, so don’t ask your PR firm to do it. If you need eyeballs, consider straight-up advertising or paid placements. The downside; the audience will know you paid to get the story and control the message, so it won’t feel as genuine as real PR.
7. The intern can do it.
Don’t ask a fish to climb a ladder and don’t ask an intern to pitch your startup. Interns can be great for getting coffee and some even have the capacity to contribute to well-envisioned, well-guided, well-monitored campaigns. You may find an intern that is so good they eventually become a valued employee. But would you really trust an intern to be your company’s sole ambassador, pitching your startup to Fortune, or TechCrunch, or Ellen? Keep in mind, most reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, the odds are slim that your intern knows who to approach a reporter and what to say to make put your company in the best light possible.
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications strategist who helps brands advance in growing industries. Her clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME Magazines’s best site of the year, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more.
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Jacobson Communication is a Pacific Northwest boutique public relations firm that helps startups, upstarts, and emerging brands get the attention needed to drive positive brand engagement. From sales, to biz dev, to company enrichment, you'll be surprised what better communications can do for your brand.
Copyright 2019 Jacobson Communication