Media · Press

Is it worth it for early stage startups to hire a PR agency?

Varun Gupta Sr. Front-End Developer at Code Brew Labs

March 28th, 2017

We’d like to get a few good media hits for our brand to add credibility when potential users search our name. I’ve been researching PR firms and hiring one can cost $5,000-$10,000 a month, it seems. That’s a lot of money. I understand that PR firms are better at this than I am, but is it really worth it to spend that much money when I can put the money directly into marketing campaigns?

Amy Stevens Perception and reputation specialist

March 29th, 2017

Hi Varun - I think Chris (Capra) here makes some great points. Strip it back to basics as you first need to understand who your audience is/who you're trying to reach and then put some thinking into where they 'hang out'. What do they read? Are they heavily influenced by social media? Do they go to a lot of events?

Once you have this pinned down, you can choose tactics that will help you reach those people in the places they're most likely to be looking. It might be that PR is not the solution (however much that kills me to say!). We work with a lot of start-ups and offer free consultation where we often find ourselves turning down business as it becomes apparent that PR is not the right way to get the job done.

If you do discover that PR is what you need - whether that is getting in front of prospective customers or building your profile in front of the investor community before a funding round, you could ask to work on a project basis. It might even be that the agency could work on commission or you could arrange an exchange of services.

All the best! Amy

Chris Capra Online Gaming - Marketing, Acquisition and Public Relations Consultant

March 28th, 2017

Hi Varun,

There are a few parts to the answer to this question.

First: Do you have solid messaging and positioning around your company. Can you answer the following questions without hesitance or variance, every time.

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • Why is it important / what problem does it solve?

And most importantly,

  • Why should anyone care?

In my experience, working with dozens of startups over the last decade, those questions pose the biggest issue with early stage companies. If your messaging is not formulated then chances are your direction and focus is not as well. There's nothing wrong with that, especially at an early stage, it just doesn't make for a good PR push.

Secondly: Define your target audience and your goal for these media placements Do you want to attract new customers, perhaps venture capital or even potential employees? The goals and audience will determine the types of outlets you will seek and the story you will tell. Without this you are shooting blind

Finally: What value can you give to a reporter with your story? How timely is it? How important will it be to their readers? If this is a one-off story, chances are there will be little incentive for someone to cover it unless the news is big and very appropriate to their audience. Seek to become a great source of information, not just on your company or product, and you will build a relationship for the long term. You have to give first in order to get later.

A parting thought: A PR Firm may not be your best bet if you are working on a small budget and limited resources. A freelancer that has experience in your industry or with your type of product may be a better choice. If you can answer the questions above, you will be more efficient at sourcing someone that has the media connections you need. By establishing clear goals (not on the number of articles but on the content, tone, and audience) you will set them up for success.

Good luck!

Mark O'Toole Marketing, communications & branding to help companies find their rallying cries

March 28th, 2017

Find a freelancer. If all you need is a few media hits, spending on a firm won't make sense. And if your internal team cannot devote the resources to making a program of any size work, don't invest the time or money. You need to available to review messaging, do interviews, have opinions, write/edit, and brainstorm with your team. None of that happens in a vacuum.

Brian Kennedy

March 31st, 2017

If you want some top-level media hits, do it internally. Make a list of 100 and a few different brief and easy to digest pitches that are personal and make reference to some other past workof theirs. FIndan intern to do it, including adding email contacts to database.

Adam Mann CoFounder at www.Subtle.Email

Last updated on April 14th, 2017

I think it is worth it, if you are ready. PR can get you visibility in media - one post on TechCrunch or other big outlet, can get you thousands of new visitors. In one shot. Both types: clients and VCs.

Been there, done that.

And they are very good leads, because they have read about you and they already expressed their interest in whatever it is you are selling, because they clicked through and signed-up. Quoting Alex Hitchens from The Hitch movie (played by Will Smith): "they already said YES, when they could have said NO".

But you need to be ready.

Your product needs to be ready to convert. You need to know exactly what you are going to sell them and how and for how much. You need to know why they will chose you, instead of your competitors.

So if you prepare to all this beforehand, PR is a very good. You can earn 5-, 6-, 7-digits overnight. But don't expect PR to help you figure out the basics of your product.

Henry FRSA Managing Director, Positive Profile Limited

March 28th, 2017

It all depends on what your product is (will be) and whether or not you can/are willing to speak out on important issues. Yes, PR firms can cast $5,000-$10,000 (or more) a month, but smaller PR firms without huge overheads may well be willing to take you on for about half that figure, depending on what you expect and how much time they'll have to devote to your account.

Somewhat paradoxically, the more time you're willing to put into the effort, the less they may have to charge you. For example, it would probably take less time to edit and place an article written by a client than to find an outlet willing to simply write the client up.

Hope that helps and good luck with your launch!

Kind regards,


Marc Duke CMO in a box giving marketing support to start ups

March 28th, 2017

Varun it depends what you want PR to do for you. Build profile, create awareness of lead gen? If it is PR you are after then a freelancers could well be the better route better use of budget more focused etc. check out sites like The WorkCrowd or Brainbroker as options. Better still have a list of the publications your prospects read (ask them) and use that as your starting point.

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

March 29th, 2017

You can afford a PR agency as an early stage startup?


Marilynn Olson GM/Wearer of many hats/Recomazing team member

March 30th, 2017

Hi Varun, A colleague of mine at Recomazing recently penned this article on the value of PR for startups. There are some really good practical tips and tools included. I hope this is helpful. Would love any feedback you may have.