Unlike the IT security and payroll functions of your business, public relations is sexy. Who doesn't want a stylist and a photographer fussing over them during a magazine shoot? Who wouldn't want an article in the Wall Street Journal that your college buddies or even better, your investors, can call you about?
Fame feels fun. Yet there are a number of reasons not to bring on a PR firm or agency for your business. Like the launch of a company or product, timing is everything in public relations. Here are the five main "no go for PR" situations which I've noted over the years of running a PR firm that works exclusively with startups and brands in innovation.
1. You need sales NOW.
You look at your Google analytics daily, I know. You have every potential investor asking you how many users, units, unicorns, whatever you've wrangled as your proof of concept. Sales are necessary to your business, but public relations is not the answer. PR is not an outsourced sales team. It's part of your overall branding and a tool of validation for your target audience. Expecting PR to influence sales immediately is on par with expecting the organic apple seeds you planted yesterday to offer apples for your pie literally tomorrow.
2. Your brand, values and audience are undefined.
There's an old adage in PR, "Facts tell; stories sell." However, that's not enough if your facts are murky. I prefer to say that ideas first gel--only then can facts tell and stories sell. If your team is still mulling over your logo, your product offerings and your overall strategy, launching PR is premature.
3. Your existence is your news.
Even the best PR teams have only so many tubes of vibrant lipsticks to put on the pig otherwise known as your business. If your company hasn't introduced, produced, or expanded on anything substantially new in the last year, then why would any news outlet care? A quick way to remember media outlets' interest is through a handy equation I use with clients to illustrate what we can leverage to the media. It's: "News = Now! Same = Lame."
4. You just want to sit back and wait for a tidal wave of media to wash over you.
A good PR agency should be like a meddling mother-in-law afflicted with amnesia. They'll ask what you're up to, what's coming up next, what just happened, if something happened again and where you think you're going, every time they speak with you. It's an involved relationship, and it should be. Your PR team is the mouthpiece of your business, and a solid PR relationship rests on a close understanding of your business. This will help them dictate when to talk, when to keep quiet and when to coyly suggest tidbits about what you're doing.
5. You are a BFD.
Don't go in for PR simply because you're a "Big F***ing Deal." Arrogance is the arsenic of attitude. No matter how positive and engaging your attitude is, if it's cloaked with a holier-than-thou essence, then you're likely to turn off journalists who have little interest in applauding narcissism. Sure, Silicon Valley is populated with people who fully believe they can change the world, but journalists are not a panel of VCs entranced by ambiguous visions.
There are number of reasons why a public relations firm would be a great move for your business, but if you fall into one of the five categories above, consider putting PR on the back burner.
*Originally appeared in Inc. Magazine