What Every Start Up Needs to Know Before Hiring PR


Embryos are tiny and frail. Unfortunately, embryonic businesses get taken advantage of by consultants all too often.

If you’re a start-up, an emerging thought leader or a self-published author looking to hire a public relations consultant to promote your company or yourself, I’m going to share with you something that most people won’t.

They won't because they want to bilk you of a few months of retainer payments while you come up to speed. It's a dirty little secret no one likes to talk about, but PR firms still profits from inefficiency.

None of this really applies to name brands or enterprise players (although they get bilked, too), but if you’re new or pivoting or just getting started with a PR consultant and it's your first time at the races, what you're going to learn here will help you manage your risk.

Assuming you’re a fairly literate, informed person who reads regularly and keeps up on current affairs, with some guidance, you may be able to do your own public relations.

Some PR consultants will tell you journalists don’t want to be pitched stories directly or that they have relationships they can use to get you press, but that’s just a sales tactic to get you to sign with them.

Show me a journalist who doesn’t want to hear directly from someone with a good story, and I’ll show you a shy Tik Tok influencer.

So the question is, how do you learn how to package your own story in a way that’s mediagenic?

How do you get the skills and knowledge to implement your own PR campaign without relying on a public relations consultant?

And how do you figure out who you should pitch and when and how to pitch them?

If you have the time and inclination, you could take a class or read some books on public relations and figure it out on your own.

Or you could hire a seasoned public relations consultant to show your ropes, accelerate your learning curve and teach you to manage your own public relations campaign. But it might be tough to find someone honest, experienced, and willing to share the secrets of public relations consulting.

But what if you could hire a seasoned PR consultant to guide you through the implementation process so you could get your campaign up and running on your own?

Inside Out PR

Inside Out PR is an alternate framework I developed for implementing PR under the guidance of an outsourced, senior public relations counselor.

But in order to understand how this approach is different, let’s start by taking a look at the Traditional PR Staffing Model.

In this example, Erica Romaguera, the in-house director of PR (although it could be a VP marketing or the company owner) manages an outside PR agency who handles the full lifecycle of external communications.

From developing the key messages and preparing the media lists to connecting with influencers, amplifying their coverage and measuring the outcomes of the coverage, a public relations firm — retained non exclusively — handles it all.

This traditional PR Staffing model makes sense for larger companies, but their are a number of practical challenges to sustaining a long term client agency relationship, since PR agencies must find a way to maintain their own staffing levels in an environment where their client expands and contracts unpredictably.

More than anything else, it is this stark reality that leads to PR agencies delivering shoddy work.

Email blasts that should be targeted get shotgunned far and wide not because PR people don’t know better, but because PR firms are under pressure to deliver media coverage without the long term commitment from clients they need to staff accounts appropriately.

It’s usually not that public relations specialist don’t know better, although when agencies over rely on junior level staffers, that may be the case as well.

It takes a good deal of time to send custom pitches to hundreds of reporters who may not be interested anyway, so PR specialists often take a scattershot approach to save time and resources and email blast the world, whether the story is right for them or not.

For decades, I produced meet the media panels for PRSA where journalists tell PR people the best way to get their attention is to read their articles and pitch based on their prior coverage.

Still, taking that approach only marginally increases the likelihood of coverage, since the number of pitches a journalist receives is always greater their capacity for coverage, most PR specialists go broad and personalization comes down to merging a first name into a canned email pitch.

It’s an issue of economics rather than capabilities, although that may figure into it as well. From this perspective, the PR representative is only in it for the short term prospect of scoring a quick news hit, rather building long term relationships, which is what would benefit the client most, although they may not know it.

For the majority of clients who are not big names, consumer brands or enterprise players, tasking an external, shared resource to handle external communications is fraught with conflict. The agency is looking to minimize the resources required to score news coverage because they’re nonexclusive and need to service multiple clients with shared resources. Journalists are looking for personalized pitches.

Under the Inside Out PR model, an external PR expert leads the client through a series of structured, one-on-one coaching sessions, checklists, access to online resources and some degree of editorial support to jump start a media relations effort and build momentum.

Through this approach, clients come up to speed on how to secure media exposure for themselves, or get the guidance they need to hire and train an entry level PR specialist to work in-house.

Inside Out PR may also include the task of hiring, training and management of a dedicated, in-house, junior PR specialist, but not their compensation.

By outsourcing the hiring and training of an in-house, full time resource to a senior level counselor, the client essential gets what a PR agency would provide, but from a dedicated resource at a much better value.

Inside Out PR is an option for clients who:

  • Are looking to build momentum before they hire a publicist
  • Aren’t promoting global consumer brands
  • Are working on securing venture capital
  • Aren’t seeing value from an existing PR agency relationship

Inside Out PR is an alternative PR staffing model that gives clients access to a senior level, strategic PR advisor on a nonexclusive basis, possibly with a dedicated junior PR specialist, so there’s no need to ride herd over a PR agency account executive to get the appropriate level of service.

Inside Out PR flips how conventional public relations teams are resourced and can work for clients just getting started with public relations or those looking to take their PR in-house.

If you'd like to explore outsourcing PR strategy while insourcing the tactical execution of your media relations, I am currently working with a limited number of startups on their go-to-media strategies and message development and well providing editorial support and door openers with journalists and influencers.

Contact me to learn more.

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