Your products and services might be amazing, but that won’t get you far as a start-up if no-one knows who you are or what you do.
Even if your strategy is to grow quietly and organically, by word-of-mouth, those first orders need to come from somewhere.
And ‘cool’ companies who seem to prosper without being showy about it are doing more for their own PR behind the scenes than you’d imagine.
Organisations often talk about being ‘ready to do some PR’. The truth is you shouldn’t wait. When is your start-up, or indeed anything in life, a fait accompli rather than a work in progress?
From the moment you voice your business idea to friends, family and potential backers, you are doing your own PR. Everyone you meet in a professional capacity comes away with new awareness about you and your firm. Every post on social media acts to promote you.
It’s a misconception that PR is an extra or an afterthought, rather than a principle that should be at the heart of your operations – even when you seek the help of external experts to help you with great content to get your messages across.
Here are five reasons why PR is important from the very beginning, for any brand.
PR builds relationships
Businesses thrive on good relationships. Not just with customers who want to give you their money, but also the wider community, including suppliers and neighbours. Friendly, open and honest communications are key to getting on with people.
A highly-shareable blog focused on your area of expertise, offering helpful tips and advice, will be more effective in building goodwill than simply issuing information listing your prices and offers, however nicely you present it.
Chatting online and joining conversations is likely to do more for your company than pushing out sales messages without listening to what anyone else on social media has to say.
Finally, regular communication is crucial. It’s hard to build trust – and appear ready to do business – if your website and social media presences haven’t been updated for three months.
PR gains you credibility
Savvy firms don’t seek journalists’ coverage just to show off. They understand the power of the media in influencing audiences.
People confuse marketing with PR and while marketing is about you telling people how great you are, PR is concerned with persuading others to do that for you. For example, as a consumer, what would you pay more attention to? A restaurant’s claims for its own food, or a review by a journalist?
A respected trade publication giving you editorial space to voice your expertise and opinion further validates your words. A newspaper reporting your latest news confirms your status and relevance. And, the more creative you can be in telling your story, the better!
PR helps you to solve problems
PR isn’t just about broadcasting the good stuff. It’s there to give you guidance through bad times and criticism.
Investing time on issues management – that’s monitoring and acting on the potential problems bubbling under – can prevent the sort of full-blown emergency that can finish a company.
And when things do go wrong, the principles of crisis communications – often referred to nowadays as ‘business continuity’, for very good reason – can help you to find the words, do the right thing and rescue the situation before it’s too late.
PR strengthens your strategy
Most established organisations have a clearly-defined vision and objectives, setting out what they want to achieve and where they want to be, over a given timescale. A well-planned PR or communications strategy will support those aims.
So, within this structure, whenever a business is actively ‘doing some PR’, it knows what it wants the result of that activity to be.
If your only priority is getting new orders, a high-profile interview on your local radio station is only worth the time spent preparing for and attending, if it will be heard by the people you want to reach.
PR brings you business
The more work you put in to building awareness of – and confidence in – your firm, the greater benefit you will reap. Big, go-to brands in any given field didn’t rise to prominence without such sustained effort.
Talking to the wider world about your offer, putting yourself in front of the right people online, in print and in person, as well as handling complaints and problems effectively, all adds up.
PR isn’t just about issuing a press release or uploading a video – though those are good things to do – but nurturing your reputation in every interaction you have.
Start-ups that understand this are on the road to a bright and successful future.