3 Ways Big PR Firms Slow Down Startups
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.
1. MONTHS TO MARKET
Big PR firms require a long runway, lots of meetings, and weeks, if not months, to gather all the information about your startup, workshop pitch angles, develop public-facing content (landing pages, PDFs, etc.) based on your startup’s spreadsheets and data, pre-launch, and launch your product. And that’s if you have a healthy budget.
If you have a bare-bones budget the big PR firm will likely help you with a press release, slap it on PRWeb and show you all the “reprints” it gets which, alone, mean little in the actual marketplace. If you’re really lucky, the big PR firm might make some phone calls on your behalf to a handful of reporters.
Your startup will have to engage said PR firm for many expensive months before you see results. It also assumes you have dedicated marketing, PR, and social teams (also expensive), ready to assist the big PR firm with whatever they need to create the public-facing assets of the PR campaign.
2. BIGGER STORIES ONLY
Good PR is never about one story in a “big” publication alone; it’s about many stories, over time, supporting the messages the public needs to know about your brand. Big PR firms want impressive stories in “big” recognizable publications to cover your startup (even if it’s just one or two publications), which is a problem. What your startup really needs is an ecosystem of many stories telling audiences about the need for your startup, and the reasons why your startup is best-poised to solve the problem. Big PR firms want big publications to at least mention your startup. They don’t always have the time to focus on in-depth quality stories with niche markets and smaller publications, which can be perfect for building your startup’s reputation as you grow. When was the last time you remembered a company that was only briefly mentioned in a big publication? Chances are, the companies you remember are the ones you heard about across multiple publications, over an extended period of time.
While mentions in “big” publication stories look flashy and lend temporary credit to your startup's brand, they are not enough to build the ecosystem of stories that create the mindshare of trust that drives new customers and extended interest to your startup.
3. YOU MIGHT BE GONE TOMORROW. THEY DON’T CARE.
Big PR firms work with big brand names. While a big PR firm may claim to work with a variety of clients at a variety of sizes, the brands that write the biggest checks are the big brands. What’s more, these contracts mean little if it’s for a month or two. Big PR firm’s bread and butter (and Bugattis) only matter when they can keep these large companies satisfied for years at a time. Big PR firms have employees, and rent to pay, even in the slow months. Even if they lose a big account.
When push comes to shove, big PR firms can risk not pleasing smaller clients like startups, especially if it means going the extra mile for that big account that brings in tens of millions a year. This means they can encourage you to delay your story until a time that’s convenient for them. You’re not getting their best all of the time, because you aren’t the one they need to please.
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About the Author
Jennifer is a storyteller who connects big ideas with audiences. She specializes in public relations, brand development, and creative services for startups, theme parks, musicians, authors, nonprofits, and more. From audience awareness to brand development, and positive social change, Jennifer works with clients she believes in and that she believes she can help.