Bill Gates famously said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” Easy for him to say. It’s been a long time since he’s seen the bottom of his pile of dollars. If you are running a start up, you might feel much closer to yours. Although it's difficult to take his statement literally, he’s making the point that PR is critical; and he’s right, especially in the case of start ups.
A lot has been written about the definition of PR, so let’s set that aside for a minute and go straight to WIIFM (What’s In It for Me). Here are 7 things PR can do for your start up:
- Clarify your message – Messaging and positioning are essential to effective PR and the success of your start up as a whole. You’ve likely talked a lot about your target market, your competition, and your product, but have you distilled that down into your brand’s story? Are you able to clearly articulate what sets you apart and what problems you can uniquely solve? Engaging in PR will force you to do those things and prepare your message for use across additional channels like marketing and advertising.
- Develop brand awareness – As we’ve explained before, “If you build it, they will come” only works in baseball movies. If you want people to learn about your brand, you have to find ways to have it mentioned in places your audience is likely to go. Your PR strategy for earned media will help you do this.
- Achieve thought leadership – If you have just founded a start up, you are likely one of the most energized and informed people in your industry. Think about that. Who better understands where a market is moving than those with their shoulder to the wheel trying to help it get there? PR gives you the opportunity to set yourself up as a trusted resource for those that read and write about your space.
- Attract talent – What does a potential employee do when they see your job posting? They Google you, of course! Certainly they want to look at your website, but what others are saying about you can be even more important. Positive earned media can be a powerful lure for hiring the best talent available.
- Mark your turf – If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell it for you. Markets and media hate voids. PR helps make sure that the story of your brand is coming directly from you and that you have the opportunity to craft your own image and identity.
- Create credibility – I was once involved in a start up with a product that was heads and shoulders above anything else on the market. We convinced many a CIO that our solution was the best and that it would solve important problems for their company. But too often we heard, “We love it, but we just can’t buy something that important from three guys in a garage.” Although we were 14 men and women in an office, the point was taken. PR was necessary to boost our credibility, create the illusion of a bigger company and give our champions greater piece of mind.
- Produce measurable business results – It isn’t unusual for start up founders to shy away from PR due to its reputation as a black hole. In the past, it was true, that it was difficult to measure the value of PR in any objective way. Fortunately, that has changed and today’s technology and PR software makes it possible to track exactly how PR impacts website visits, audience engagement, lead generation, and revenue.
Investing in PR for a start-up is no longer an act of faith. There are concrete reasons and good empirical evidence that it is a worthwhile exercise even when budgets and executive bandwidth are limited. Given all the things that PR can do to help your start up grow, we don’t think you’ll ever have to spend that last dollar.