(As originally written for and published on NBCChicago.com's Inc. Well)
I am often inspired by other online content and this story is no different. It gives reasons why you shouldn't hire a PR company for your startup.
Now I am pretty open about my industry and do agree with a number of the reasons on this list, but, to be honest, it's more about you understanding PR, how and why it works and finding the right long-term partner for your startup.
PR is important for startups because of the immediate, affordable credibility it can build with potential customers and investors. If you can achieve real opportunities with media, it let's everyone know "you've arrived".
Although investors might like to see it, I'm not talking about simply putting a press release up on a wire service, but actually landing a story on TV, in print or on a blog. That's where the real value to your startup is. It will help keep you front of mind in the industry and, most importantly, build your brand.
Sadly I have seen too many people have a bad experience with a PR person simply because they lacked the understanding of public relations. My goal is to solve that. Finding the right partner is key. After all, this is your money and dream.
Here are some characteristics to consider before, or during, your search to bring a pro onto your team:
Worked in media
Experience in corporate PR, small businesses and startups
Proven growth for clients
Well spoken, confident
Recent wins, portfolio or press kit examples
Someone who is understanding and flexible with creating a plan that makes you happy, and meets your budget
Someone who wants your business long-term, not your money in the short-term*
Someone you like and always go with your gut
Someone who makes guarantees - you can control someone else like you can the weather
Someone who attempts to razzle and dazzle you - aka dog and pony show
Someone who is "salesy" and overly aggressive
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
Ultimately, hiring a PR agency is about finding the right partner that understands your business and objectives.
You need to find someone willing to work within your budget to provide a very targeted strategy which will expand as your business does. Sure, if you want an aggressive, national campaign with a seasoned professional who "gets it" rather than an inexperienced college grad, you will be need to consider that you get what you pay for.
However, starting out and wanting a few quick hits to boost business should not require an additional investor to cover the cost. Look for someone who wants to be on your team and is committed to sticking with the company as it grows. This means they are actually willing to go above and beyond and not nickel and dime you along the way.