I recently spoke to a Malaysian CEO with over 20 years of experience in technology and running multinational brands. We spoke in length about public relations and he felt that it was not a smart decision at the moment, since his new startup was only 18 months old. Despite assurances from me and positive feedback from other entrepreneurs, he would not budge from his position.
This would have been very depressing a few years ago, but almost two years into my own entrepreneurial journey and this has become commonplace. I do not totally blame entrepreneurs though, in my experience, the industry has often failed the small business owner by refusing to adapt to the changing times.
Read the first blog in this series here where I explore PR secrets for startups.
To help alleviate some fears that entrepreneurs might have and also, hopefully educate those who have not had experience working with PR agencies or people, I’ve decided to openly discuss four misconceptions about PR.
Let’s dive straight into it here.
Public relations or PR agencies are a waste of money
Short answer here. No it isn’t.
To elaborate on that a bit more, I think the misconception arises from expectations and perceptions of what Public Relations is all about. For the most part, PR is actually a long and deliberate process.
Hiring a PR agency to manage or change a business’ reputation involves patience and a lot of hard work. Often, the work we do now, only results in returns later on – could be weeks, months or even a year from now.
For startups and small businesses to grow and avoid the inevitable growth stagnation, the smarter entrepreneurs turn to PR. By establishing a strong PR partner or internal team, they should be able to develop a sustainable strategy to grow their business even during lean periods.
Public relations measurement is useless
This actually used to be true for a long time. The standard measurement practice (might still be for a lot of companies) used to be the measurement of PR value or the advertising value of the piece of coverage multiplied by a PR multiplier. This arbitrary figure could be 3, 5 or even 7 in some cases.
This was useless then and is even more so, as we are entering a new age of startups and SMEs needing measurable outcomes for anything marketing or PR campaign they invest in.
With the right startup, they will look at measurement that matters and this varies by startup. At SYNC, we look at the following:
- Increase in website traffic for brands that convert web traffic to sales
- Downloads of a mobile app
- Inbound lead generation for B2B startups, and even
- Reduction in sales cycle timing to reduce the cost of acquisition
An over-reliance on the press release
Why does every entrepreneur I speak to nowadays equate PR to press releases? If I hear another person say, why are you not budgeting for monthly press releases, I may need a holiday.
Do not get me wrong, press releases are extremely valuable tools, but need to be used wisely. Over-utilising releases can reduce the value of your brand. Launching a brand new product that will become a major revenue driver for your brand definitely deserves a release, while a small partnership with no significance to your industry and brand may not require a full-fledged announcement.
A good PR agency or team will help you plan your announcements and find creative ways to make sure you maintain good coverage for your brand even when there are no announcements. There are always interviews, industry stories and contributed articles.
Focusing on a narrow media pool
My least favourite quote from a client in Singapore goes a bit something like this:
If aren’t getting coverage from The Straits Times then why are we even bothering to do any PR at all?-ANONYMOUS CEO THAT I HAPPEN TO STILL TALK TO REGULARLY
What preceded was a carefully executed plan that yielded interviews with the top business magazines and online websites in the country. This was both demoralising and also very worrying for myself and the team. We were concerned he would just cancel all the interviews.
However, this story has a good ending for everyone involved. After some persuading, everything went as planned and we were able to get four really good interviews completed. The client was also able to double their inbound lead generation in the next month and has slowly, but surely come onboard to a more strategic way to look at PR.
We share some PR tips for responding to a poor customer review online.
There are amazing media all around the region that have a great readership and are also influential. Work with your public relations agency or team to find out which publications are relevant to you and why, rather than focusing on a very small pool, because you know them.
If you’re curious to learn more about public relations or want to speak to a SYNC consultant about starting your brand’s PR journey, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Tech Collective under the title “4 misconceptions every entrepreneur has about public relations”.
This article has been updated on 10 June 2020