I recently read an article encouraging startups to avoid hiring a PR firm, and what those new companies should do instead (hire an in-house PR pro, according to the author). Hiring a PR firm doesn’t make sense for every business, but despite what the author of the article above would have you believe, hiring a firm can have a number of benefits – even for up-and-coming businesses.
Do you have the time or resources to manage, or hire a manager of your communications efforts?
Startup companies have a lot on their plates, and typically with a minimal staff. Functions like managing sales channels, materials/inventory, HR and financials rightfully take up a majority of those resources. But that also means marketing and communications frequently get pushed to the backburner and become an afterthought. The right PR firm, with the right experience and contacts, can be an extension of your internal team, and one that doesn’t require the cost and risk of making a new hire. Additionally, if you’re hiring a firm you’re getting a team of communications pros (in GFM’s case, an extremely experienced team). The power of group thinking is tremendously valuable.
Added bonuses: There are firms that don’t require retainers or monthly minimums, which means you have the luxury of being able to ramp your marketing and communications efforts up or down depending on what is going on organizationally. Ask around to see if the firm you’re considering will use your resources when you need them most.
Does the firm’s staff have the experience, knowledge and ability you’re looking for?
A firm that has solid media contacts is definitely an important consideration, but with the way newsrooms are changing and journalists and influencers are communicating, solid contacts are not the only benefit you gain from a PR firm. The right PR professionals will ask a LOT of questions to best understand your business, industry and audiences/customers (even if they have prior experience in your industry). Then they can uncover the stories and benefits that matter to your audiences and find the strategic channels to deliver those messages (a press release is never the only answer at GFM) – the channels that will actually deliver tangible organizational goals.
Speaking of organizational goals…what are you trying to achieve?
This is probably the first, and most important question to ask. In the Digital Age we live in, measuring success can be more than confusing. Long gone are the days of measuring PR by impressions or eyeballs. Understanding what you really need (website traffic, media relations, issues management, brand awareness, data visualization, SEO, community connections, etc.) will not only help you choose the right firm that can deliver on those needs, but will also help you avoid paying for results that have little value for your dollar.
Ultimately, if you’re thinking about hiring a PR firm, do your homework. The true experts in the communications industry can provide value for a startup company that goes way beyond a front-page story.