Startup PR Myths Debunked

It has been almost a year since I blogged about common startup PR myths. That post drew from NY Tech Meetup mail list discussions and cited arguments for and against PR.

Since then, I’ve run across a few more myths. So I thought I’d update that post.

You Don’t Need PR if you have a Great Product

This myth is based on the old cliche’ that if you can only build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. In other words, marketing doesn’t count. Anyone who has studied business or labored in the trenches of the startup world knows that this isn’t true. But many ventures are led by techies who may not be so savvy about marketing.

Yeah, you need a great product – but that alone is not enough to get noticed in today’s noisy world. You also need to budget for consistent and effective PR and marketing support to earn the attention of key audiences.

It’s all about Relationships

Just hire the right firm with the right relationships, that’s your ticket to PR success. A corollary is that said firm can help you get famous near instantly. It is based on the fallacy of PR as media whisperers who can pull a few strings, get clued into stories in progress and voilà! Your startup is on the map.

This is an irritating one because it sounds like it should be true. There’s no question that you need a great network in PR; yes, relationships can help. Any PR firm that has been in business for more than a year has them.

But great relationships alone are not enough. Especially as you seek to get into the highest echelons of media – the largest publications and most well-known and respected reporters will not write because you know them, or necessarily share what they’re working on.

They will hear you out, and maybe even write if your news is relevant to their coverage (and checks off boxes like credibility, defensibility, i.e. includes hard data or third-party validation, and ranks higher than other stories they could be working on).

It’s all about Content

According to this myth, you don’t need a PR firm, you just need writers for bylines and blogs. After all, content is king, right? And it is not hard to find cheap writing talent.

I’d argue that content is a commodity and attention is king. It’s all too easy for your precious articles to go ignored, and hard to generate the quality content that people actually want to read. Besides, content alone will not do much for building all-important brand recognition, as I point out in my post End of Media Relations – or a new Beginning?

That’s because bylines and blogs are by design not overtly promotional, and don’t win the validation that comes from earned media about your company and product.

PR Doesn’t Work Anymore

Some say that PR is no longer effective for tech startups. E.g. in a forum, a CMO said:

With the number of security outlets decreasing and the number of vendors trying to get coverage exploding, I question whether PR still has a place in the marketing mix of smaller cyber-security companies… I feel they’re better off with a research tool and a good writer in house and marketing the press in the name of the CEO.

This myth takes a narrow view of PR. True, the field is constantly changing. While some doors may close, others are opening. There are many ways to get through to your audiences beyond press coverage in trade media. E.g. analyst reports, events, social media content – these things are all part of any good agency’s arsenal.

The very challenge cited – competition and marketplace noise – is all the more reason to hire professionals well versed in your field who can work their magic to help your story rise to the top.

Please also check out this post which counters the following topics. Thanks for reading and I welcome any input on PR for startups.

  • Hiring a PR firm is a colossal waste of money for most startups
  • Just use Cision for press releases if you want PR
  • PR is not rocket science. You can spend a week or two learning it and get 70-80% of the results of a PR agency for 10-20% of the cost.
  • Very rarely will a PR agency develop your brand
  • There is not a need for a $10K a month agency, which will not do much more for you than a freelancer or small firm.

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