Recently, I discovered a great Quora post: “As a startup, how do you get the most out of the first PR agency that you hire?”
Coming from the agency side, it’s a question I wish I got more often. Here’s what startups need to know when working with PR firms:
1. Give them access.
Your PR firm should be asking you for access to your company’s thought leaders. Provide it. Early on, the firm you’re working with should be talking to the movers and shakers at your company—product managers, marketers, customer service representatives, you name it. Without a complete view of your company from the inside out, your PR firm will miss opportunities to insert you into the stories that matter.
2. Don’t silo PR and marketing.
The efforts of these two departments will overlap. In the case of a bootstrapped startup, the efforts of these two people
will overlap. Give your PR firm visibility into your marketing efforts. If you’re running weekly email campaigns and planning an event blitz, your PR firm needs to be in the loop.
3. Think of your firm as a business partner.
And treat it as such. See Nos. 1 and 2.
4. Push your firm for creativity.
Then let it push back. If you’re a startup, your PR firm should be bringing you big ideas. It’s OK to say no.
5. Ask for assistance in program strategy.
A tactics-first approach only gets you so far. If you’re a startup, it likely doesn’t get you far enough.
6. Defer to their expertise.
As a startup, every hire you make is critical. You also need to be confident enough in the hires you make that once they’re up to speed, they can run with what you give them. Without that trust, you can’t scale your business. In this sense, third parties are akin to employees.
7. Check in regularly.
Your firm wants to hear from you. No, really, it does.
8. Use your firm as a focus group.
By the nature of the profession, PR professionals are plugged in to trends in your industry, and they know what resonates with consumers, businesses, and media. Presumably, they’ve seen many startups succeed and many others fail. If you aren’t actively tapping into that knowledge base, you aren’t getting enough value from your firm.
For those of you on the client side, what has your experience been?
Andrew Cross is a Chicago-based public relations professional with Walker Sands Communications. Follow him on Twitter at @Andrew_R_Cross.