Is Your Startup Ready to Outsource PR?
Startups used to hire public relations practitioners with experience in their industry and relationships with reporters covering their trade.
If you were a B2B tech company you wanted a B2B tech PR specialist. If you were in video games, you sought out a video game PR specialist.
That's still true for enterprise clients. But for everyone else, things have really changed.
We are living through an age of massive corporate growth. I'm not just talking about Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.
I'm talking about an ecommerce pet supply company called Chewy that did 5.3B, a system integrator called Carahsoft that did $5.3B and Uber, a company less than 10 years old that did $11.3B in revenue last year, according to Inc Magazine.
In the old days, Chewy would have wanted someone with packaged goods PR experience, Carahsoft would have wanted a B2B tech PR specialist and Uber would have wanted someone with B2C transportation PR experience.
But when you're managing the reputation of a company where headcount is doubling, tripling or quadrupling ever quarter, the org chart is a mess and everyone's wrestling to try and control the message, growth scaling experience becomes much more important than vertical industry expertise.
Clients today are more interested in PR specialists with experience managing growth, than experience in their industry and they want someone with experience at a company one growth stage larger than theirs.
From a corporate communications perspective, growth PR is about logically sequencing media channels by corporate growth stage.
Hierarchy of PR Needs
Start-ups are focused on developing their voice and identity through owned media like their website, blogs and building their social media profiles.
Next, they advance to pivot stage where they look to validate a product-market fit. I call this the change-up stage and here, company's should be focused on building their community through social networks.
Once a product market fit is proven, they enter the scale-up stage and this is when they're finally ready to leverage earned media like news coverage, influencer engagement, endorsements, testimonials and reviews.
Of all the media channels, earned media presents the greatest opportunity for driving growth, because earned media outlets have trust and reach.
If scale is achieved, and growth targets are satisfied, it becomes a grown-up and looks to paid media or advertising to sustain market share.
Growth PR Model
This model suggests that most start-ups and change-ups aren't ready to hire PR.
Public relations is about building visibility and credibility through third party endorsements. But how can you hire a representative to hunt for implied third party endorsements when you haven't found your voice or product-market fit?
Rather than outsource full lifecycle public relations, start-ups and change-ups may still want to outsource strategy, but until they're ready to focus on earned media, they should keep the day to day tactical execution of PR in-house.
Outsourcing may seem like a good idea because you're so busy, but how do you outsource who you are or what you stand for?
How does an early stage company outsource the development of its online community to a PR agency without selling its soul?
The mistake too many startups and change-ups make is hiring PR before they're ready.
Owned media profiles are best built by in-house company specialists, not outside PR agency generalists. The same is true when it comes to building online communities.
Unfortunately, it happens all the time. The agency loses money trying to give the client a service they are unequipped to deliver. And the client feels burned because they don't get the earned media they wanted.
What if there was a better way of getting it done?
As an alternative to relying on PR agencies pre scale-up, I've developed an innovative program to provide startups and change-ups with senior level PR guidance, while leaving tactical execution in-house.
Inside Out PR
Inside Out PR is one time, fixed-fee based service that gives early stage companies a way to minimize the risks inherent in client-agency relationships.
Rather than agree to an open-ended retainer agreement and rely on external agency to get you ready for the scale-up stage, which can take time and become very expensive, Inside Out PR is a structured program that provides clients with the guidance, resources, feedback and ongoing coaching to get to the scale-up stage faster.
Then, they can outsource PR and move into earned media relations much more successfully.
Contact me to find out if Inside Out PR is right for you.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash