Just Launched a Startup? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Hire a PR Pro Just Yet


Today we bring you a guest post by Sarah Rose Attman, president of Sarah Rose Public Relations and former staff reporter for US Weekly.

This post is presented by AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. The San Francisco-based technology company is passionate about using data to show the true impact and value of PR.

Congratulations! You just launched your startup. Welcome to the wonderful world of being your own boss, building something from the ground up, and fighting against the odds to “make it”. Every company has been where you are today, so embrace the chaos and get ready for the ride of a lifetime.

There is so much to do! Designing your logo, raising a round of financing, hiring your founding team, and of course PR, right?

Well, maybe not.

Imagine this: you hire a PR pro who gets you featured in the New York Times business section or places a story in Mashable that spreads like wildfire across the internet. Your website gets flooded with new visitors, your app gets thousands of downloads, and you personally become extremely visible and scrutinized by the media. Is this something you are truly ready for? What if there are bugs in your product? What if your website can’t handle an influx of traffic? You only have one chance to make a first impression, so you better be sure it’s a good one.

Instead of getting on the phone with a PR pro and asking “How fast can you get me into Forbes?” here’s what I recommend you do instead:

Perfect your product

Yes, PR is a key ingredient to long-term success, but there’s one other piece of the puzzle that’s as (if not more) important: the viability and accuracy of your brand and product.

You say you have an app that can track my flight better than anything else on the market? Prove it. Put all your preliminary resources into making the product as awesome as humanly possible. When Re/Code editors play around on your product, they’d better like/get it the first time. Also, make sure your product is ready to grow so that if you do get that big PR hit your technology can handle a sharp, exponential growth curve.

Wait until you get funded to approach top tier tech media

TechCrunch is not going to be banging down your door to write a profile on your new app. A new app is not newsworthy. Editors don’t care about an idea unless you’re one of the big 5 (Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter), so fish elsewhere. Contribute to niche blogs. Write your own blog with an interesting point of view. Get social. Create meaningful relationships with influencers. This is all part of the PR machine.

Do some DIY PR

Here’s how you can get started reaching out to smaller, more local outlets on your own, without having to bring on a PR firm or pro right away:

  1. Make a media list. Do research on blogs, websites, and local journalists in your vertical. Use social media to determine how prominent a blog is. Do they have a big following? Are people engaging with them on Facebook or Twitter? Has the blog itself been covered by bigger publications? If so, add it to your list.
  2. Find contacts. This is not difficult to do despite popular belief. If you have money, you subscribe to a database of journalist contacts or look for opportunities on free sites like HARO. If you don’t, bust out your old high school crush stalker skills. Creep onto journalists’ LinkedIn and Twitter pages to find their work email addresses. Larger publications typically have the same format for emails such as: firstname_lastname@condenast.com. Once you crack the code it’s easy to reach journalists.
  3. Perfect your messaging. To do this, you might want to hire a PR consultant for a half-day session to give you some basic advice. In general, keep it simple. Make your email pitch newsworthy, short and catchy. And tell it like it is. It’s a good exercise to develop 3 talking points that support your core business objectives. These should convey your business’s value proposition and share the current news you’re looking to publicize. When it comes to the media, you get 27 words, nine seconds and three key points. It’s the 27-9-3 rule. This is a concept that originated with the legal profession, but it holds true for PR. If you can’t get out the most important aspects of your product or business using this rule, then you’ve got work to do. Particularly in today’s fast-paced, attention deficit-driven environment, keep it short, informative and sweet.

All this being said, PR is undoubtedly an essential ingredient for success. Having good representation in the media can mean increased visibility and usage of your product. The value of a strategic earned media placement can be equal to tens of thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars in advertising fees.