The Surprising Role of PR in Early Stage Startups

September 15, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer


When setting the list of priorities, few early stage startup founders put public relations very high on the list. This is understandable given the Herculean task of putting together a team and getting a product ready for market. It’s understandable, but it’s also a mistake. PR isn’t something you invest in only after you successfully go to market, it is something you invest in so that you can successfully go to market. It has the potential to impact and support almost every other area of the business. Here are some ways that PR pays off for early stage startups.

Brand Identity

In order to engage in PR, companies must develop a sense of identity. Developing a PR strategy forces you to ask some hard questions. Who are we as a brand? What are our key messages? What sets us apart from the competition? Your brand will develop a personality and voice with or without PR, but it pays to do it with intention and thought.


Building the right team is one of the most important jobs of startup founders. Great people are attracted to companies that seem to have momentum. PR can be used to attract employees in the same way it attracts customers.

Product Development

I know that PR isn’t often associated with product development, but it should be. One of the primary responsibilities of PR professionals is to understand what’s going on in the market. In order to do PR effectively, PR pros must constantly monitor the media to look for changes or trends that impact customers, the industry and competitors. Smart brands can leverage this valuable data to inform product features, service offerings and packaging.


Most startups can’t afford to spend a lot of money on paid advertising. PR is a smart alternative. A few well-placed earned media mentions will get your message to the market with a level of credibility that can’t be bought. In fact, 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, while only half trust paid ads.


It once was very difficult to measure the impact of PR on sales, making it difficult to justify the investment for a startup on a short runway. Today, the most advanced PR software makes it possible to calculate PR’s impact on website traffic, lead generation and customer acquisition. This makes it possible for founders to make smart investment decisions when it comes to public relations.

Reputation Management

It is hard to underestimate the growing importance of online reputation to brands. Eight out of ten internet users say that negative information online has made them change their minds about a purchase. Unlike earned and owned media, there is no barrier to entry for writing a review. Anyone can do it. Negative reviews, therefore might pose a bigger threat to your brand than negative sentiment in the press or competitor claims. PR plays the critical role of reputation monitoring and management. Failing to fill this role could leave a dangerous gap.

Early stage startups should not look at PR as something that only established enterprises get to have. Instead, it should be seen as a critical part of building the company and creating the story of your brand from the outset.

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