Metis Communications

Startups beware: PR “magic” is bad for your marketing strategy

Had I titled this post “5 Easy ways to make all your dreams come true,” it probably would get a lot more clicks. Humans are hard-wired for the “easy” message. There’s always an audience for articles promising easy ways to grow wealth, shed pounds or find happiness – and there’s always an audience for promises about easy public relations and marketing results.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could wave your magic wand, and – POOF! – your CEO is in TechCrunch. Another little wave, and – POOF! – that single story leads to amazing marketing and business results.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Valuable PR and marketing results come from strategy, goals, internal frameworks, planning and effort. Founders need to stay wary of lies about magical PR powers, including these:

1. We can figure out the strategy later.

I’ve spoken to too many founders who want big media hits, but they don’t know why. The strategy has to come before this type of effort. Are you pursuing your first round of funding? Are you planning to launch a product? Are you hoping to generate leads in a particular region or vertical industry? Are you seeding the market for long-term awareness? Or are you simply trying to make it look like the lights are still on at your organization, even if they’re dim? If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s not time to start calling PR and marketing firms.

2. You will be an overnight sensation!

There’s a reason we don’t take on short media relations projects at Metis Communications. A two-to-three-month project might have two-to-three-month benefits, but short-term awareness doesn’t do much for business longevity and success. It’s unlikely a handful of articles will sway a discerning venture capitalist, build your customer base or cinch strategic partnerships. It would be so great if overnight sensationalism were a real thing, but success starts with the right story, a strategy closely aligned to your business goals and multiple paths for creating influence with press, analysts, VCs, prospects, partners and other audiences. Think, an ongoing media relations strategy within your overall marketing plan, not a one-hit-wonder machine.

3. The press coverage is all that matters.

The PR and marketing landscape has changed dramatically, and successful programs bank on campaigns that integrate public relations, marketing services, content and social media marketing, design and outreach on owned, earned and paid platforms. What good is a great piece of lead-gen content if no one knows about it? What’s the value of a story in the New York Times if traffic referrals don’t convert on your website? And why wouldn’t you publish and distribute content on social media when all your contacts and target audience are there to engage with it? Know your audience and influencers and where you’re most likely to reach them in a meaningful way. Too many founders and marketers fail to do this.

4. We have the relationships to get you that story ASAP.

Relationships are critical in all industries. For instance, if you burn a reporter once when it comes to media relations, you probably won’t get the chance to do it again. And this is exactly why relationships alone won’t always get you that big press hit. Top-tier publications want top-tier stories, and top-tier PR pros should push back on clients when they know that angles won’t appeal to reporters or their readers. The right business partner should be upfront with you about this, and they should work with you to test messages, get feedback from targets and develop stories that will resonate.

5. You don’t need to invest time in your PR program.

The early-stage startup might have a couple of employees, some angel funding and a lot of energy. It might not have the framework to support PR quite yet, and trying to swing it before you’re ready, especially when you have no experience doing so, could do your business more harm than good. If you get that big press hit, drive the big traffic and start the big conversations, will you be able to follow through with a market-ready product or service, so prospects and VCs see you as worthy of serious consideration? If you’re not sure, you’re not ready.

Beyond magical PR promises

There’s a lot more involved in influencing the influencers than landing a story in a major publication. A reputable communications partner will be up front about that and educate you about ever-changing best practices – but it’s on you to stay open to that counsel. Before you start shopping for PR practitioners with magic wands, think about your long-term, strategic business goals -- then look for a partner who will tell you the truth about what it will take to get your business where it needs to go.

Learn how to establish your PR infrastructure in this free e-book from Metis Communications: “Startup PR 101.”