Startups · Entrepreneurship

What are your thoughts on PR Agencies?

Kashif Jehangir Assistant Manager Administration at Private Company

September 9th, 2016

Are they really worth it or a waste of capital resources that can be allocated somewhere else at an early stage phase. Especially keeping in mind that most PR Agencies as for a retainer and sometimes that can be up to 6 months

Tim Foster Co-Founder, Pop Culture Audience Platform and Data-Driven Film Studio

September 9th, 2016

i worked in PR for 10 years at a PR agency - they are pretty useless for traditional media for small or early stage companies- its honestly just another type of sales call - you can figure it out. The only good thing about using any agency is its someone’s job - someone is accountable and forced to deliver but i’d say there are cheaper ways to get that benefit. Tim Foster Co-Founder, Tadpole Digital Ventures P: 289-407-8716 E:

Edward M. Yang

September 9th, 2016

Full disclosure, I'm a partner at a PR agency that specializes in helping early stage tech companies.

Like most things, the answer is "it depends".

Some founders are naturally gifted in this area and have both the time and inclination to get press coverage themselves.

The vast majority don't, and are rightly focused on things like product development, sales, growing their team, etc.

Whatever you do, don't lock yourself into a 6 month contract. We just have a simple 30 day out clause for most of our clients.

It's also important to have definable goals to shoot for, for instance:

-2 media mentions
-2 bylined/thought leadership articles
-1 speaking engagement
-1 press release (if needed)
-2 award submissions

One client of ours saw an increase of organic traffic to his site of 900% after 3 months, with coverage in Entrepreneur, Business Insider and a radio interview.

Results will vary, but that's my two cents.

Jennifer Ernst

September 9th, 2016

I've used agencies very effectively for early-stage technologies, but here are the caveats.

First, you must know how press coverage matters to your business strategy. For an optical switch technology we were looking to license out, one article in Light Reading netted qualified leads with almost every relevant manufacturer and potential licensee. Would not have needed an agency for that.

Coverage drives traffic to a site and generates inquiries. If you don't have staff time to follow through or manufacturing to deliver orders, then there's no purpose.

Finally, what you get out of an agency is proportional to what you put in. I don't mean funding, but rather time, creative energy and commitment.  You can't just cut a check and turn them loose.  You MUST have someone internally who owns the story and the program's goals. Then, and only then, can an agency be a useful extension of that person's resources.

I do have a favorite agency I recommend if you want to contact me. 

Edward M. Yang

September 10th, 2016

Mark Sendo,

We worked on a project that had the same type of criteria as yours.

They had a mobile ride sharing app and were rolling it out city by city.

Thus, we targeted both local press and national press.

For local, we got them on local Chicago NBC TV, Phoenix TV interview, NPR Seattle, and a bunch of others.

For national press, we got them into CNET and Washington Post.

Using a deep and wide strategy can pay dividends if done correctly.

Shawn Matthews

September 9th, 2016

Kashif.... IMHO its a waste of money at this point! Make an awesome product, then provide great customer service, and then launch. A few weeks before launch, go on to and talk with a few experts to create a media strategy, then execute. Start building relationships on social now, and then find an amazing hook to lure people in. But work on product first. Sent from my iPhone

Stephanie Martin Communications & Marketing Consultant | C-Suite & Board Advisor | Public Speaker | Writer

September 11th, 2016

I second Wendy's remarks. The importance of a strong communications plan is often overlooked. Getting positive press is a great thing but if you haven't crafted messages and strategies that connect with your intended audience and motivate them to action (i.e. try or buy your product or service), you won't be able to create long-term relationships with your customers. To motivate to action, your target audience needs to understand why your product or service will help fulfill their needs. Depending on your needs, you can hire a firm, a freelancer or go in-house, but think about communicating with and engaging your key audience from the beginning. 

Joy Montgomery Continuous Improvement for Cleantech Companies, Connector

September 11th, 2016

A good PR person is a treasure. Unfortunately, it's very hard to find a PR expert who will work with anything other than a big corporate plan and startups don't have the budget for that. I have found a couple who agreed to put a white paper or article in the most beneficial publication for a reasonable flat fee.

Maher Daoudi CEO and Co-Founder at Skillvo

September 10th, 2016

PR is really a sales job, instead of buying your product, the media is buying your story. Hire a sales person to do the PR role. Just like in sales - in PR you create a list of targets, you then start contacting them to build a "pipeline" and continue to contact them until they are ready to buy your story and publish you. 

What i've learned over my career is that agencies for any service are structured the same. They have leaders who tell you what you want to hear, promise the world, and asses how junior of a person that they can put on your project to make money from you. Instead of paying $100/hr to an agency for a junior person getting paid $15-20/hr, you can hire an independent contractor directly who likes to work independently, has more experience, costs you less and can get more done. 

We're moving towards a gig economy anyway that's more efficient with technology allowing talent to be easily discover-able and instantly hired, that's why I started Skillvo, a platform to allow service professionals to showcase their work. 

Wendy Marx B2B Public Relations Expert Takes You From Anonymity to The New York Times™, Turns SMBs Into Industry Icons

September 11th, 2016

Hi Kashif,

As a boutique PR agency, we work with early stage startups. PR today is a lot more than media relations, as important as that is. We find most startups need help with messaging and communicating a viable story that resonates with media and prospects. There's a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to be done before you are ready to launch. Besides messaging, that can include creating viable content; background materials, including visuals; beta case studies, and anything else that will effectively communicate your story. Getting all your ducks in a row pays off and we have proudly taken startups from anonymity to major media. We also don't require our clients to be on a retainer. Here's a post I wrote for Fast Company on getting your startup to stand out.                                            

Jonathan Ivanco Customer Journey Enthusiast

September 9th, 2016

I've fired a few. It's hard to have an agency understand your brand, market, and be able to tell your story, they only dedicate say a few hours a week, it's not enough to live breath, follow your industry, your competitors, and everything else that is going on.

As stated above, create a good pitch, stay up to date on your industry, track publications that write about your industry and make friends.