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There is a *right time* to hire PR for your business and it may not be when you think it is. Here’s a common example of a conversation that I have a lot with companies who think they are ready for public relations:

Business: “We’re ready for PR, we want to be famous – actually, we want to be in TechCrunch”

Andrea:  “Why do you want to be in TechCrunch”

Business: It’s a rite of passage!

Andrea: Are your customers reading TechCrunch?

Business: Oh um, well maybe? 

Andrea: Then why do you want to be in there?

Business: It’s TechCrunch!

Andrea: Totally, but let’s talk about why you really want this right now. 

This example is powerful because like any other marketing strategy, there has to be an objective. The whole entire point is to use PR as a top of the funnel activity to bring in leads, which will ultimately convert to sales — so why target the wrong people off the bat?

It’s not as simple as “we’re ready to be famous” – there are important things to consider for you to be successful with PR.

Here are some qualifiers to consider, before you consider adding a line item in the budget for PR services:

  1. Have clear goals for why you want PR. Saying “I want to be famous” – isn’t enough. Be clear on this, because PR is not “one size fits all” — it’s only as good as your objective. The reason that this is important is because like marketing, PR has different swimlanes and strategies based on what the objective is. For example, if you are going after a round of funding, it is important to raise awareness amongst investors. What are investors reading? Is it VC newsletters? Is it Forbes? Is it CNN? Alternatively, if you are driving people to a local event, it will be important for you to get media coverage in your local/regional publications, since that is where your attendees might be. What is the reason you want PR? Get specific.
  2. Have a working product or service? This may sound like a silly question, but is it fully working? Out of beta? Do you have customer feedback? Traction? If it’s a store or shop; is it open? This is one of the first questions a reporter will ask you on the phone, so best to be clear on it now. Sadly, gone are the days of “I have a great idea,” there needs to be more substance. Here’s an example: years ago, I got a startup that I was working with a two-page spread in Fast Company. The day the article hit, there was so much traffic to the site that their website crashed. Their store broke, they didn’t have systems in place for customer support, and ultimately, the PR did not work in their favor since they ended up losing potential customers and people were frustrated. It took them months to get back on track. They were not ready.
  3. Understand how you are different – and are you really different? This is the first question you will be asked by any and all media (and your potential PR person)! They will ask who you are, what you do and then…why should we care? At the end of the day, you are solving for something – what is that? And if you are not the first (which is totally okay), what makes your product/service/offering better? You can be the first to market and get press for that, but if you are the 3rd, 4th or 5th, you can still easily get press if you can explain your key differentiators. Lead with that. Lead with what you are solving for.
  4. Know what audience you are looking to target? It’s crucial to understand who you want to get in front of. Per the TechCrunch example above; who is your buyer? Who is the person you need to build trust with? Figure out who that is and then, figure out where they are consuming their information. Because if they don’t read it, what is the point? If you are using PR to help you build and grow your business and ultimately make money, know who your customer is and what they are reading.
  5. Understand the best way to measure PR. This is by far one of the most important things to understand – and if you do, you will get a very strategic PR person on your side. Get over vanity metrics. PR is about value, not volume. 1-2 pieces of media coverage in the RIGHT publication will take you much further than 30 pieces in the wrong places and give you a better ROI.

If you can confidently address those five points, you are in a good spot to start thinking about PR for your business.