We’ve said it before: Relationships are important, especially to startups. Our guest blogger agrees and reiterates our beliefs in his own words. It’s always great to know that others share your point-of-view!
Startups find themselves in positions of deliberation. They are in a state of perpetual cost-benefit analysis, as every decision and action can impact a multitude of organizational variables. This is due to the fact that a startup ecosystem is fragile and unpredictable, yet closely intertwined. It isn’t uncommon for an early company to find themselves in the seemingly futile, yet necessary, position of “this-or-that”. For example, it could be a choice between hiring a full-time developer or allocating funds to PR. Regardless of the tradeoff, startups have to make difficult decisions that are anything but black and white.
While product development and innovation is at the heart of a startup, there is a strong desire to generate that so-called “buzz” or build brand equity within a competitive marketplace. Focusing on “buzz” can actually have an adverse affect on a startup’s ability to build an established company. While the environment is erratic, ever changing and volatile; a young company must, from the outset, focus on sustainability and functionality.
It isn’t Just “Buzz”
StartupPR shouldn’t be viewed as a simple, one-off “buzz” generating function – no matter how alluring it may be to see your company covered in an industry-leading publication. Spending both time and capital on PR will require that same trade-off described above. This is precisely why the perception of PR needs to be adapted to a startup’s unique environment. PR is an integral part of a startup’s business plan, but it requires intent, not just a creative pitch, tailored press release and a fast-talking consultant.
World-renowned entrepreneurs have in the past cautioned startups about hiring a PR firm or consultant for several reasons. These include the fact that PR professionals couldn’t change perception no matter how many articles were published, they don’t know every element about a business and the trade-off between capital and PR was an inherently easy choice – the former.
PR vs Startup PR
StartupPR should not be finitely defined by the seemingly simple preconceptions of the term public relations. It’s important to redefine the term for what it truly is and what it means to a startup company seeking to enter a competitive industry – for instance, tech.
“Buzz”, although sinfully magnetizing, is not a sustainable strategy at the outset. Rather, StartupPR should be viewed, in its entirety, as a relationship building function first and brand or image building second.
Relationships with underlying significance are far more important than the coveted press coverage for a company in its infancy, both in terms of longevity and business development. StartupPR represents an entity that is built on the company’s intent – its value proposition, passion, objectives and tenants. While coverage within the media is a necessity, it shouldn’t be the initial focal point – attention can be generated organically alongside this strategic endeavour.
While PR’s subset of media relations or “pitching” is binary in nature (i.e. singular dividends paid via coverage), StartupPR as a relationship building function rooted in a company’s business plan allows for multiple channels of advancement and development.
Meaningful relationships can be formed in strategic ways through messaging and positioning that mirrors a company’s intent and value proposition. While media coverage is branding in disposition, relationships can be formed in ways that benefit branding (outreach and word-of-mouth) alongside integral developmental milestones. For example, relationships can lead to funding, mentors, partners, market opportunities, industry knowledge, adoption and sales. While some may argue press coverage can achieve the same ends, it doesn’t shape subsequent actions and network foundations.
An appropriate example may follow this anecdote: as a startup company vying to become an established enterprise, what would be more useful? A digital article in a national publication or functional relationship with industry leaders that possess potential market opportunities?
A PR strategy and/or agency that is invested in your startup, focused on relationships, and most importantly, understands the intent of your company, will amplify areas of opportunity that align with the company’s vision and image. PR employed solely for the purpose of generating “buzz” identifies only one stream of opportunity that is restrictedly linear: pitch to coverage to potential increase in brand equity to possible increase in sales and/or adoption.
It is important to remember that relationships established on intent and strategic insight have infinite streams that can redefine a startup’s trajectory, growth and position within the marketplace. Potential shouldn’t be restrained by the inconsistent perception of PR. Rather, it should be leveraged to its full capacity by shedding that perspective and teaming up with a firm that truly understands StartupPR and what it can offer.
About the Author
Tyler Orchard is the Manager of Strategy and Social Media at Zync in Toronto, an award-winning brand and marketing agency. After completing his Masters degree from the University of Guelph and McMaster University, he spent time as a Director of Communications in Canadian politics. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, the Zync blog or his blog.