Busting the Myths of PR for Startups

Lately I’ve read and heard a lot of bad advice for startups when it comes to marketing and public relations. The general message being sent is that startups should handle their own marketing and PR until they “really” need it. The logic of this argument is that marketing is a waste of money until a startup can afford it and that marketing is something you can handle yourself.

There are so many myths in this line of thinking. Let’s start with the biggest and easy myth:

Myth No. 1: Marketing Costs a Lot of Money.
Can marketing cost a lot of money? Sure — if you have money to blow, there are agencies that will be happy to take a stab at making a million-dollar viral video and building a $50,000 website. But that’s not what a startup needs. Many small agencies and freelancers are experienced in working with companies on a shoestring budget. Whereas large agencies are focused on campaigns, small agencies and freelancers specialize in tactics. Creating a small website that can grow with your business, launching social media tools, developing crowd funding tactics and creating a one-sheet marketing piece can be done on a very small budget.

Myth No. 2: You Don’t Need PR & Marketing Until You Can Afford It.
If you want to know why most small businesses fail before they can afford marketing, you already have the answer. Starting a business without a marketing plan is an invitation to failure. Again, the myth is that you can only create a marketing plan by paying a fat monthly retainer and signing a long-term contract. Savvy, smaller agencies will provide you with a marketing consultation for free, sitting down with you for lunch or coffee to tell you what you need and when you need it. Even spending a few hundred dollars to develop an overall outline of your marketing goals can be a tremendous help. The downside to waiting to implement marketing is that by then your reputation may already be firmly entrenched or your competition has beaten you to the punch.

Myth No. 3: You Can Do Your Marketing On Your Own.
I recently heard a marketing presentation by a former corporate rep tell budding entrepreneurs you can do your own social media marketing in 10-20 hours per week. My question: where in the world are you going to find the time to do that PLUS your own job running your business? That’s crazy. Some business creators have the talents and skills to handle their own marketing, and some do it extremely well. If you can do it, great. But if you can’t, there’s nothing wrong with getting some help. Again, small agencies are nimble enough to provide one-time services such as social media implementation. For less than $1,000, you can hire a professional to implement social media tools you need, train you to use social media software and create your own tracking reports. If you’re comfortable, you can take it from there. But getting a little help along the way can save you a massive amount of time and money.

Myth No. 4: Anyone Can Build Relationships With Journalists and Get News Coverage
Anyone in PR who tells you they can guarantee news coverage is lying. As a former journalist, I can tell you that for every thousand phone calls, emails and pitches from Joe Public, you can count on one hand how many make it in the news. Unless your pitch is professional, credible and newsworthy, it’s going straight in the trash. Journalists can receive hundreds of pitches per day, and usually only one or two gets through. A PR pro will help you identify what is newsworthy about your company and help you tell a compelling story. There is also more to PR than getting a story in the newspaper or an interview on TV. Public relations is about connecting to the people, and there are many ways to do that beyond traditional PR.

A friend of mine always says when it come to solving problems in business that you have either time or money. How do you best use those resources? It definitely depends on your skill set. If you have experience in marketing, PR and social media, you may be able to handle much of it yourself. But how much time are you taking away from the rest of your business when you could hire help? For startups and budding entrepreneurs, turning to small agencies and freelance networks for helping with building a plan and implementing tactics is an affordable solution.

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