For startups, getting the word out can be a struggle. How do you cost effectively promote your product or service when you’re just starting out? Marketing funds may be the lowest priority. And, there’s always debate about whether startups really need PR.
In some schools of thought, it seems to depend on which part of the country you’re based in. For example, when I was in Silicon Valley, PR was one of the first considerations for fledgling startups…it seemed an integral part of buzz building and was factored into the plans and budget early on. But, when I returned to my roots in the Midwest, I found that not only was it not one of the top priorities—many startups and smaller businesses didn’t do ANY PR.
Why is this?
- Part of the reason may be that VC funding here in the Midwest differs from that in the Valley. We don’t see startups based here raising the money that startups out there do. The dollars aren’t as free-flowing, which puts a crimp in marketing, which encompasses PR.
- However, there also seems to be a mentality in the Midwest about PR that differs—it’s not seen as vital to spreading the word. Maybe it’s the lack of publications based here that cover startups. The Bay Area is filled with tech pubs that cover startup news. But now, there are many blogs that really seem to search for startups located outside the traditional areas. Now, we see more and more stories across the board covering startups based in the Midwest and in other parts of the country.
- And, there’s also that old Midwestern school of thought that tooting your own horn is something you shouldn’t do.
In any case, the Midwest seems to breed a culture of seeing PR as nice to have—not vital to making the company successful.
I’d suggest that startups outside the Bay Area reconsider the value of PR. What type of marketing provides more potential ROI? Not T-shirts to hand out at a trade show. Not a direct mail piece that goes directly in the recycling bin. PR provides value because it’s:
- Credible: Because people trust articles versus ads when researching a purchase.
- Leverageable: Leverage an article to close a deal or approach a potential customer, for example.
- Repurposable: Take material from a press release to create a blog post or take quotes from a success story to post on your site; and of course, you can post any PR materials on your social media channels.
One of the key ways PR adds value is by creating buzz so that when you go in to sell your product or service, the prospect is more likely to have already heard of you. “Hey, didn’t I read an article about you? Was that your company I saw featured in that piece?” It adds to overall brand building.
In short, PR provides some of the best bang for the marketing buck around, for any company or organization, startup or not. And that’s definitely something to toot your horn about!