Knowing when to start PR isn’t always easy, especially for startups. In my years of public relations and marketing experience, very few startups begin their PR efforts too early. Some startups wait to begin public relations until they’ve been selling products for over a year, and some wait until they feel like they have a story worth sharing. With so many outside voices insisting that a startup “must start now” on advertising, social media, SEO, rebranding, choosing an office space, hiring a team, winning awards, and giving cars as signing bonuses, it’s a lot. I get it.
“Is my startup ready for PR now,” is the question I am often asked, and the answer has a lot to do with what the startup is already doing or about to do.
Here is the Jacobson Communication official quiz to help you figure out if your startup is on fire, if it’s actually ready for PR, or if you can wait until you actually have something of interest to share.
Is your startup currently selling/offering a product or service?
A: Yes. We’ve been selling it for years.
B: Yes. We just started selling it.
C: Not Yet. But we will be selling it in the coming months.
D: No. We will someday in the far off future.
E: No. We don’t believe in selling anything.
Is your startup paying someone to post to social media on a regular basis?
A: Yes. We have at least one person working full-time on social media.
B: Yes. We have someone part time post a few times a week.
C: Kind of. We have someone post to social who does other things.
D: No. We can’t afford that kind of thing.
E: What is social media?
Is your startup spending money on advertising?
A: Yes. We have a healthy advertising budget and we’ve hired advertising professionals to run it.
B: Yes. We pay for the occasional ad to drive sales.
C: We’re about to start doing that.
D: No. We won’t for at least another six months.
E: No. We don’t believe in advertising. A good product should sell itself.
Does your startup have a paid sales person or team?
A: Yes. Those folks work hard for us 24/7 and they move a lot of product.
B: Yes. We have one, and they are getting some good results.
C: Kind of. We have one who only gets paid commission.
D: No, and we won’t for at least six months.
E: No. We don’t believe in sales teams. A good product should sell itself.
Do people sign up for your startup’s regular newsletter and actually read it?
A: Yes. We have tens of thousands of people reading our monthly newsletter.
B: Yes. It’s a good group of people who enjoy what we write.
C: Not yet, but we’re about to start a monthly newsletter.
D: No. We won’t for at least six months.
E: No. We don’t believe in promoting ourselves go people who should remember us.
Have you ever hired a marketing consultant or firm to re-brand your startup?
A: Yes. We paid a lot for them and we love their work.
B: Yes. We hired a consultant who was very affordable.
C: Not yet but we’re about to.
D: No. We hadn’t even thought about that.
E: No. We don’t believe in marketing. People should love us by virtue of our individuality.
Do you have a dire need to stand out from the competition today?
A: Yes. We’re pretty sure a big company is going to launch something similar to us next week.
B: Yes. Our product is similar to others, and it’s hard for consumers to realize we’re better.
C: Kind of. We’d like to stand out but it’s not our top priority.
D: No. We’re the only one like us.
E: No. We’re so unique that no one has a name for the category yet.
Scoring: For every letter you get, assign a number value. What Does Your Score Mean?
The Highest of Scores
31 - 35
You’re on fire. Stop taking this quiz and hire a PR person now. You’re missing an opportunity to stand out from the competition, which would let you charge more and/or get more customers. Better PR will help the sales team you’ve already hired move more product. It may even help you get acquired. If you want your startup to be the next big thing, your time is now. If money is too tight to hire someone for PR, consider reducing some of your spending in other departments to balance the budget. Seriously. PR will help you right now.
Your Time Is Now
30 - 25
If you’ve been on the fence about diving into PR, this is a good time. Bringing on PR now will help the money you’re already investing go further. You don’t have to hire the most expensive PR firm, but it is worth it to find a quality organization or individual that will work with you to get the customer PR results that will start driving visibility and sales soon.
You Could Go Either Way
24 - 19
Unless you scored a 5 on the questions about selling product, or demand, you can probably wait for PR. But set a reminder for yourself 3 months before your product/launch to start looking for a consultant or PR firm to help you build awareness. You’re going to need it.
You Should Wait
18 - 14
There are probably some better things you could do right now, like develop a go-to-market plan, a business plan, a target audience list, a product, etc. You’re not ready for PR just yet.
It's Time To Rethink Things
13 - 7
Are you running a business right now, or a dream? If you scored this low, you might want to rethink why you’re even in the startup space. If you’ve been in this situation for more than 6 months, this is clearly a passive hobby for you, which is fine if you’re not expecting to actually go big with this. If you have employees or family who expects you to actually make money, this is a good time to find another way to do that. Life as an entrepreneur probably isn’t for you.
Wondering what to do next?
If you need more advice about PR or marketing or helping your business stand out, let us know. Contact Jacobson Communication today.
Your first consultation is free! www.jacobsoncommunication.com
Jennifer L. Jacobson is a creator and communications strategist who helps brands advance in growing industries. Her clients have been on The View, The Today Show, in TIME Magazine’s best site of the year, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more.