Starting up is no small deal and there is no dearth of people who can vouch for this. Starting up is pure and simple “hard”. It takes a lot of effort and insane amounts of motivation to make something work. It’s not easy to gain acceptance in this world which is and will always remain resistant to change. But once you’ve decided to startup and come out with your offering, you’ll need support from all quarters and a PR agency is an interesting part of the puzzle here.
One might argue that if your offering is good enough, it’ll speak for itself but in this age when hundreds of brilliant ideas are coming up everyday; the struggle for existence has only got tougher. Now, PR has a rather negative connotation around it and this is the biggest challenge a PR firm faces. Always under pressure to show results, the business turns a tad bit nasty at times. A worthy PR firm is not someone that churns out releases at will; a Public Relation firm in the true sense does much more. We at Yourstory caught up with two startup friendly PR agencies (more than 50% of their clients are companies younger than 3 years) who've managed to build successful brands. Following it are also some factors a startup should look at before hiring a PR firm.
Kunal Kishore is the Director of Value360 which was founded in 2003 and has been a proponent of the startup ecosystem in India. “We handle more than 70 brands and have many global brands as well but 50% of our clients are early stage companies,” informs Kunal. And Aim High Consulting was founded in 2007 with this aim of changing the perception of a PR firm. “We are more of consultants and provide all round support about recognizing and devising outreach strategies,” says G Gopinath, co-founder at Aim High. Working towards making PR agencies more respectable entities, Value360 and Aim High have created a lot of worth for their portfolio companies.
Snapdeal has been the marquee company for Value360 while AimHigh had Flipkart as the torch bearer. Most of the business for these agencies comes via associations with VC firms. They get recommendations from a VC firm once a few of their portfolio companies have had good experiences. Talking about their business, Kunal says, “It is very important to package content in tactical ways to make it inciting for the media to pick up. There are different aspects and strategies for PR we look at to make a brand tick. The core focus is always to create good content; it works as a pull and not push.”
Aim High Consulting has a 35 member team based in Bangalore with 75% of their companies below 5 years and has managed PR for firms all across the nation. “As we all know, location is no longer a barrier and we manage some of the best startups in the industry today like CaratLane, Dhingana, Ola Cabs, Fashionara, to name a few.,” informs Gopinath. AimHigh only manages internal activities for PR now because of the scale that FlipKart has seen.
Talking from a startups point of view, the right time to hire a PR firm is a very crucial step in the lifecycle of a finance crunched startup. Many young startups have now started hiring PR firms at an early stage but in this age of remaining lean, you don't want to spend without ROI. Here are some of the factors you should consider:
- Domain Expertise: See if the firm you're in talks with has had experience with companies in the same field as yours. You don't want a firm having no clue about your segment handling your PR.
- Necessity: Hiring a PR firm becomes of essence when you're inundated with calls from journalists and can't handle your marketing strategies. Untill a point you can manage it yourself, do it because you represent your brand.
- Reach and Focus: If you have a global product, it'll necessitate having a PR firm that has global relationships. And they should also know your customers. A PR firm who doesn't know your target audience, is of no use to you.
- Press Release Strategy: If the firm has this as a foremost proposition, they're not going to do it for you. Bombarding press releases never incites a writer to cover your firm. Your PR agency needs to be more insightful.
Clearing a doubt about advertising and PR, Mantrapublications wrote, “Publicity campaigns work in conjunction with ads and sales efforts. With advertising, the message is clear: Buy this product; while publicity gives you an independent voice, which adds credibility and shelf life to your product.” It makes more sense to hire a PR firm once you’re ready to hit the market. You can also give it a shot yourself (here are 7 ways to make your startup media friendly) if you’re fighting for survival but it consumes time. It is always a tradeoff between learning a new trick apart from bettering your product and handing it over to someone experienced.