Entrepreneur published a 12-point list of tips for startups, courtesy of Mark Cuban, that included at number 11: “Never hire a PR firm.”
Well now you done did it Mark Cuban, because, of course, the PR industry will respond. On Forbes, Flatiron Communications’ exec/blogger Peter Himler (also a blogger) notes, “Trust me, Mark, many startups, especially those on the brink of losing their media virginity, will derive and be thankful for the considerable benefit a smart PR firm can bring to the mix.” In another article, Himler agrees with a couple of Cuban’s points, but shoots down a few others.
Four Corners Communication’s Drew Kerr also goes in on his blog, noting the media relations know-how that a publicist can bring, particularly when you look at the sample pitch that Cuban himself used.
“Weirdly enough, the subject line Cuban uses in his sample letter to the press — Tracking Traffic to Reduce Vacancies — looks like spam or a press release,” Kerr writes. Zing!
Cuban later clarified his comment further on his own blog, bringing up the cost to a startup of hiring a PR firm and the PR needs of a small business that’s just getting its footing. And today, the PRSAY blog has a Q&A with Cuban.
Cuban tackles the issue from the point of view of the startup rather than offering up a lot of criticism of the capabilities of PR firms (though he does do a little of that in his blog post).
“The biggest issue is that very often, entrepreneurs, particularly those in their first startup, are looking for ways to offload responsibility for elements of their business that need to be core competencies of the entrepreneur,” he says on PRSAY.
Cuban makes another important argument that stands out as the reason a startup should not hire a PR firm — a new business owner needs to have a full understanding of their own company before they can even begin working with a PR firm. Which isn’t to say they shouldn’t try to get their company out there. And in doing a bit of their own PR — targeting the appropriate trade publications, local outlets, and bloggers; going to trade shows and other events — they can better hone their company’s message and target audience, which will make any PR that a hired firm does later more efficient and effective.
According to our recent post, one of the top five reasons PR is so stressful are clients. To quote, “unrealistic expectations,” “limited budgets,” and stories that just aren’t “strong” enough to fuel results were the reasons cited. Certainly, just because something is stressful doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. But if it’s a business relationship that you want to grow and you want to make money in the process, working for a startup that’s just as concerned with keeping the doors open as talking with a reporter is going to be a frustrating and likely short-lived experience. And a business owner, having tried and failed at their own PR might come into a well-considered PR relationship more willing to accept your good counsel. Wouldn’t that be nice?
A number of PR pros have chimed in on this question on Quora , touting the positive business results that can come from good publicity. And we also want to point to this list of 10 PR essentials on Mashable; simple items that an entrepreneur can handle and will go a long way towards helping business-leaders-in-the-making understand what PR does.