The number of new businesses registered at Companies House reached a record-breaking 581,173 last year. There are now thousands of new enterprises ready to pitch their stories to the media. But it appears that many start-ups neglect this crucial element in their overall marketing plan. It may sound odd to say that PR is a necessity for a business that has only just been created, but public relations can aid company growth and facilitate their ultimate success.
At a basic level, PR is the promotion of a company or individual through editorial coverage, via print, web or broadcast media. It can also involve speaking at industry conferences and award submissions. By embracing these methods of promotion, a small business can quickly and easily engage with potential investors and consumers. These PR methods are more personal and engaging than traditional advertising, which in most cases tends to be more expensive. Good PR will help a start-up stand out amongst their peers.
Stand out from the crowd
Start-ups are brand new companies so no one of note will have heard of it. Media coverage is an excellent way of helping outsiders learn and understand what the business does. A PR firm will explore every avenue of promotion and communicate your key messages to as wide an audience – customers and investors - as possible.
Investors and Venture Capitalists always have an array of investment opportunities to choose from so start-ups must stand out. It’s 50% easier to sell to a person who has read something positive about your company. A PR firm will be able to advise which publications your target investors will be reading and will be able to maintain a steady news flow from those outlets. Including press coverage on the company website will give an elevated impression about the success of the enterprise.
Communicating the company message
Prospective customers require a different communications strategy. They will want to learn more about the features and benefits of the product or service, whereas investors will want to understand your business model and future growth prospects. PR companies can help start-ups craft appropriate messages for each audience.
Some small businesses shy away from public relations because they don’t believe that they are ‘newsworthy’ or think they are ‘just too small’. This is entirely incorrect. As long as there is something noteworthy and relevant to say, journalists will pay attention. A PR agency can highlight the interesting hook or story to offer the media, whilst the founders get on with the essential part – running the business.
Managing the media…
Through a PR firm, start-ups will have access to appropriate media contacts, most of whom the firm will already know in a professional capacity. These contacts will ensure optimum media coverage – far more than a small start-up could achieve alone. Furthermore, an agency can help to manage social media accounts: by taking control of a company’s Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn account, we can target appropriate journalists and ensure a regular dialogue. A good relationship with a journalist at a broadsheet newspaper can take a company a long way. Conversely, a bad relationship with a journalist can have disastrous repercussions on a business’s reputation: it is advisable to let an agency shoulder that responsibility.
Having a PR company network on behalf of your business is not restricted to journalists; it can also involve analysts and VCs – anyone a start-up needs to connect with. A PR will make contacts and build relationships across the business world - we have the ability to open doors and get a start-up in front of the right people, which is imperative for the early and long-term success of an early-stage company.
…And everything else
Furthermore, a PR consultant will refine a company’s key messages and define business targets. This is a task many start-ups struggle with during the initial stages. A PR firm may be able to assist in the crafting of the long-term business strategy and overall company vision.
When engaging a PR agency it is vital that there be no holds barred. All information about the business has to be shared for public relations to work effectively. Any skeletons in the closet will inevitably reveal themselves: preparation is required to avoid a crisis. Furthermore, any insider knowledge will help the agency understand the needs of the start-up. Communication is paramount.
A company may wish to keep PR in-house but should they expand across different territories they must guarantee that their key messages are tailored to new markets. Therefore it may be sensible to bring in local PR expertise or use an agency with global capabilities.
Selecting a PR agency that is the right fit can help ensure the future stability of a start-up. A good PR firm will have a flexible approach to best their support clients through growth and development. Further, they will be able to tailor their services to fit any budget. So, whilst many start-ups may consider PR to be an unnecessary expense, truly it is an investment – one that can help a company transition from start-up to established business.