Commentary

Why PR, Start-Ups Don't Always Mix

During a recent discussion with a partner, we talked about early-stage start-ups and whether PR was the right tool to promote their business and help find new business. The issue, we finally agreed, was not how early in the process they were, but rather how mature they were. Did they have a true business plan? Had they researched their target market? How mature was their product, or was it still a concept? These are all very important definers of whether or not PR can help an early-stage start up. Or, in fact, any company.

Having been part of two start-ups in my early days, I'm only too familiar with the teething pains, sleepless nights worried about development loans and bridge funding, product deliveries not showing up, promised orders not coming in from buyers, not knowing where to find new customers, not having enough cash to advertise, market and PR the business -- instead, being able to only choose one. In two words -- living nightmare.

Of course, every business has business "concerns," but within the context of a start-up, these concerns can be so acute, so all-consuming that it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees. And especially foggy for those start-ups that haven't mapped out a proper vision, strategy, what if scenarios and an exit plan if the proverbial crap were ever to hit the fan.

It's not that I don't like working with start-ups. To the contrary, it is thrilling to be part of new innovation, to see your hard work and ideas propel a company's success and that smug sense of satisfaction in knowing that you helped a start-up realize its goals.

The reality check
But more often than not, it doesn't go like that. With little cash, sometimes not more than two or three months of "emergency funds" in the kitty, many start-ups look to PR as THE sales/business development/lead generation do-it-all lifeline, and expect far more than PR can deliver within an extremely short lifespan and budget. This is where it falls apart.

With no marketing plan, no sales vision or direct contact with potential customers to support a PR campaign, the thought of PR being successful and effective at delivering sales and new customer acquisition is wholly unrealistic. I've said it before and I'll say it again: PR does not replace a sales team or a robust marketing strategy. The problem with unrealistic expectations is that when PR cannot deliver the sales needed to sustain the dreamed-of business' growth -- which it cannot without the right support -- the pain is that much greater.

I'm not saying that all start-ups are like this -- I know self-funded visionaries who are creating great companies at this very moment. But my message to start-ups is this: it is all about how mature you are. In fact, a well designed PR strategy, along with viral/social components, can actually make a start-up. But if you are not mature enough, PR might not be right for you right now.

Like any successful marketing or sales strategy, PR takes commitment, resources, integration and importantly, time. Time to grow, to mature and succeed.

Just like your start-up business does.

So I ask start-ups everywhere to think before they turn to PR as a complete solution for all their immediate sales and marketing needs -- will those expectations lead you to PR success or PR disappointment?

Tags: pr
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1 comment about "Why PR, Start-Ups Don't Always Mix".
  1. Sandy Barris from Business Marketing Services , April 28, 2010 at 10:19 a.m.

    Thanks for pointing out every business has business "concerns," but within the context of a start-up, these concerns can be so acute, so all-consuming that it becomes hard to see the forest for the trees.

    And you are so right on about not having a marketing plan, sales vision or direct contact with potential customers to support a PR campaign, the thought of PR being successful and effective at delivering sales and new customer acquisition is wholly unrealistic.

    In fact it leads into the following that relates to plans and planning.

    No marketing plan or calendar should be set in stone! No matter how effective your plan may be, chances are, it will have to be altered at a given time; due to what your competitor(s) is doing.

    We have all been in a situation in which, we feel heavy frustration from the fact that we have to change the plan – that we once considered our ‘baby’ – in order to counter what it was that another company was coming to battle with.

    Even the actions of your clients, future clients or suppliers can take you by surprise – to the point of startling you – and force you to change the way in which you had set out to do things. In other words, you must be ready for anything. You must have flexibility. You must expect the unexpected!

    Now, don’t feel as if you have to be a psychic. Don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of needing a business and marketing plan so flexible that it takes away from the overall aim and goals that made you ‘hungry’ to run your particular business in the first place!

    There is an easy way to be sure that you can continue to have success in the future – if you just start off with flexibility in mind! The best way to do so is to have a marketing calendar that is flexible and built to adjust itself when the time comes to do so.

    Sandy Barris
    VP Marketing
    Fast Marketing Plan.com
    http://www.FastMarketingPlan.com

    P.S. Who else would love getting Monday Morning E-Mail Reminders with all your marketing strategies and tactics you've planned for the week.

    P.P.S. While in the Fast Marketing Plan site, click the link in the lower right and you'll start making 50% ongoing monthly income from everyone you refer.