Very often start-ups are keen to invest in two marketing channels 1. Digital 2. PR.
Now Digital Marketing is sort of the more straight forward out of both - you put out an ad, you see the performance, you optimize etc. You get what you pay for - sort of.
PR isn't that straightforward, it is more of a long term game around relationship building, going for coffees, sending freebees to get media excited about you product etc. It is definitely NOT sure that you get what you pay for. Patience is required. 🧘♀️
Without a top in-house PR talent, it is going to be difficult. So best is to consider onboarding a PR agency... but there are thousands. And all of them preach they will get your word out there and have top tier media covered with your founder stories, brand logo, new product features, the list goes on.
In order to find your way through the PR agency jungle, here some tips, so you get the right one for you:
1. Start making a list of potential agencies you may want to contact.
Ask your industry contacts about recommendations
Look up some agencies on Linkedin (those agencies that are listed as 'similar pages' often give good insights too)
Try to find out what agencies companies you admire are working with (usually some simple Google searches will reveal the agencies name e.g. on newswire sites it is usually mentioned under Media Contact or similar)
Look at some lists such as the ones from PRWeek
2. Prioritze the agencies in your list:
Ideally add some elements to your list that will help you prioritize such as brands they have been working with in the past, industries and media outlets they cover (e.g. consumer, tech, business etc.), markets they are mostly familiar with etc.
3. Get an intro or email them
After you reached out to them, schedule an initial call and talk about what you would like PR to achieve (e.g. perception, awareness, traffic to website, thought leadership etc.). It is important to get them really excited about your product and industry so they see the same potential than you do.
4. Have them pitch
If they are interested, they will usually suggest you to prepare a pitch with a couple of ideas in around a week's time. After you had all of them pitch, choose the one you like the most and kindly decline the others. :)
A few more things you want to consider:
Cost: Most agencies (but not all of them) work on monthly retainers, starting at $7.000 in the US, and mostly around $11.000 -$20.000 monthly.
Retainer: They often require you to work with them min 3 months in order to be able to show some deliverables (remember this is a long-term game). But not all of them require this.
Main contact: Find out who will be the main contact person from the agency team to work with you. Oftentimes you get a very Senior VP/Director during the intro calls and as soon as you start working on a daily basis, your main contact person will change. That can be totally ok, just make sure you know who this is going to be before signing anything.
Case Studies: Ensure that the case studies shown in pitches are clear and agencies tell you what they have exactly been responsible for. Many brands change agencies over the years, so if the agency tells you that one of their clients was Amazon, ask them what exactly they have been working on with Amazon.
KPIs: Most agencies can't really guarantee much in terms of exact KPIs (some will 'guarantee' a min amount of e.g. 10 mentions within the first 3 months, but that won't necessarily mean a full page article in Forbes, that can be just a quote / byline). However, lots of agencies usually have their internal trackers, so you can ask them to track and report regularly on these ones.
Availabilities: PR can often be quite time sensitive. Ideally connect with your agency via a Slack or similar to ensure you can reach out to them if urgent and vice-versa.
Now very often clients get disappointed as they start working with an agency and don't see the desired results straightaway. Usually if you don't have a new product launch (or a major product update) and no new funding announcements, it is rather difficult to drive press.
Alternatives that can help you (together with your agency) drive momentum nevertheless are some of the following:
PR stunts, big/viral events that drive press attention
Proactively pitch some stories that could be interesting for media and fit well within the space your product operates in
Conduct surveys with interesting industry results where you can tell how you product will encounter this trend / result outcomes
Have expert voices tell the story for you
Have a mega influencer use your product and get an article in return e.g. ''XYZ swears by this new product''
Submit your product for awards
Participate in conferences
Get journalists use your products for free
As they say, experience is often the best coach. But, that may take a while! I'm always keen to share experiences, thoughts and ideas --> email :)