By Joshua Heath, Managing Director, Codeword.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.
There comes a time in the life cycle of every company when it’s necessary to start telling its story to a broader audience. Whether the company has a product that is ready to ship, software that is ready to be released out of beta, or funding that needs to be announced; most companies will at some point find themselves seeking a public relations (PR) firm to help build their brand.
Having spent more than a decade helping brands of various shapes and sizes build and execute PR plans, I’ve learned that not every company is ready for PR. Not being ready doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t be; it merely means you need to honestly consider a few things before signing an expensive contract with an agency.
Here are a few things to consider before you begin selecting an agency:
- Do you have clear, measurable objectives in place? Before you can successfully choose a PR partner, it’s vital that you first understand what you want them to accomplish. For instance, if lead generation is more important than general brand awareness, everything from the types of stories you need to tell; to your target audience; to the media outlets you should be working with will change. If you’re not sure what their objectives should be, feel free to ask. It’s not uncommon for me to workshop objectives with a client before building out their PR plan.
- Do you have a robust news pipeline? There’s a big difference between needing to announce a single round of funding or a solo product launch and needing a long-term partner to help build your brand. In my experience, a company’s audience can sniff out manufactured news generated by an agency pretty quickly, as it comes across as inauthentic. Most successful long-term partnerships require a regular news pipeline (e.g., customer success stories, partnerships, product launches, or survey/data findings). I prefer to analyze a potential client’s news pipeline before we work with them to recommend the type of engagement they need.
- Do you have the time? While you may have a few vendors that allow you to “set it and forget it,” a strong agency partnership will require some of your time. Any experienced team will do its best to make sure it uses your time judiciously. However, it’s important that someone from your team be available for regular updates and strategy sessions. In order for your team to become great brand stewards, they need access to those who helped build it. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to working with an agency, you may want to consider hiring a director of communications who can become that intermediary.
Whether you’re bootstrapped or fully funded, PR professionals know how precious your marketing dollars are. We sincerely want to help you get the most out of your budget by helping you reach your goals, ensuring you get the most out of your news pipeline and being judicious with your time. If you aren’t sure what your needs are, going from no communications to a robust program may not be the right approach for you. Consider bringing on an agency that can do a channel-and-communications audit of your business and help you lay a strong foundation from which to launch your PR program.
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