Start-up businesses often have big ideas but can be hindered by very small budgets. Comms pros from Cherish PR, The Wern and Clarity PR tell Gorkana how they can get their messages out and when they need PR support.
Start-ups are big news. Record numbers of new businesses are expected to launch in the UK this year. Yet, as titles from Forbes to Business Insider regularly point out, they face a dilemma with their PR. Do they need a PR agency, or not? Naturally, agencies are keen to offer their services and a range – from Clarity PR to Cherish PR – have launched specialist start-up divisions, or businesses.
However, some comms and marketing professionals would agree there are PR functions young businesses can do for themselves.
But, there are cases when new businesses should not do their own marketing. Werner, who has worked with start-ups such as Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, tells Gorkana: “I would recommend that any start-up try PR for themselves in the first instance and see how they get on. If they are struggling to get press coverage, don’t have the time to speak with media themselves, or can’t find anything newsworthy about their business, this is usually a good time to contact PR support.”
Moving from product development to marketing
Timing is key, according to the agencies Gorkana has spoken to. PRs can be brought in either too early or too late into a start-up’s journey to be effective. Paula Santos, director of Little Bear – Cherish PR’s start-up arm – says: “Ideally start-ups should look at PR support when they move their efforts from the product/service development into marketing.
“Too often, start-ups bring in agencies too early. They believe that once the product is ready, they must “launch” it in a blaze of publicity. The reality is that the best PR happens after launch, not at launch, and should only be developed after they have created a story that’s original and relevant to their prospective audience,” she adds.
Ideally these companies would have already gained some funding and are willing to invest in a wider marketing strategy, according to Santos. At this point it’s also best to plan where PR fits in and how it will best benefit these businesses.
Werner’s recommendation is to consult with a PR before executing any marketing, advertising or social campaigns to ensure that they can support and amplify activity.
“All too often companies have already created a campaign and then just hand it over to a PR team to execute which can often lead to a disparate and poorly execution. PR needs to be part of the strategic process to support your business objectives not an afterthought,” she says.
PR for start-ups has evolved
In addition, agencies consistently working with start-ups have become more flexible. Many of these agencies offer short-term packages to give businesses that are underfunded a boost in advise for specific areas, rather than tying them to a long-term contract that may not be needed in earlier stages.
Clarity PR is one of the agencies currently working this way through it’s start-up arm Launchpad. Sami McCabe, Clarity PR’s CEO, says: “We regularly advise early stage start-ups – particularly those that are boostrapped or unfunded – on how to think about their comms strategy and how to start the process of engaging with the right journalists, bloggers and influencers independently.
“We advise start-ups to focus in their nascent phase on developing close relationships with a limited number of key individuals that closely follow and cover their sector.
“Much of the foundation-building can be done without agency support. When the time comes to scale, an agency can provide the reach, relationships and creativity to exponentially boost the start-up’s exposure,” he adds.