The following is an excerpt, published as a guest post with permission, from Richard Stiennon’s March 2020 LinkedIn article about his experience working with PR. Please view Richard’s original post, here.
So, here is my advice:
Invest as early as possible in PR. As soon as you have a product and a team in place find a PR firm to help you get the word out. This will be the lowest cost marketing you ever engage in. I have worked with dozens of amazing PR people over the years. They consistently:
- Connect vendors to journalists, analysts, influencers, bloggers and podcasters. This is what they excel at. Sure, you can find the email addresses and Twitter handles of journalists yourself. But a PR veteran has those journalists on speed dial. The journalists understand the PR profession’s place in the news world and treat them (for the most part) with respect and even gratitude born from trust built up over years.
- They help you formulate your content strategy. PR people need content to work with. They can help a startup identify content that will catch a journalist’s eye. (Spoiler: Numbers, surveys, and detailed reports always win over bland “we are great!” announcements.)
- Help with social media. PR people were the first to jump on Twitter. They are all there. Today they can help set up your Linkedin, Facebook, even Instagram and Pinterest, pages.
Is getting PR an ego trip for the founder? My experience is drastically different than Ed’s. Founders I talk to every day do not exhibit a desire to pump their own image. They are, however, deeply interested in getting coverage for their baby, their startup. Yes, the first time you are quoted in USA Today (thanks for that Byron!) is a rush. But, with the help of a PR firm, you soon get over that when you realize that doing PR is a grind. Journalists become your top priority. You clear your calendar to meet their schedules. You always answer your PR person’s calls.
You soon realize the hard work that goes into good PR. Not only does the PR person snag the interview, they set up the call and listen in to make the introduction and jot down any follow up actions. They can train your spokespeople in how to avoid the pitfalls of talking to a particularly aggressive journalist. They subscribe to media tracking services so they can provide metrics on your momentum. And yes, they write and manage your press releases. In short, every dollar invested in PR is well used.
Your outside PR firm can also help with analyst relations until you ramp up. I usually tell vendors not to have a full-time internal AR person until you hit about $20 million in revenue. So until then, leverage your PR person.
As you grow you may eventually want an internal PR person. Often that role will oversee multiple outside PR firms, one in each major region.
Never make the mistake of skimping on PR. Your investors and board members should push you to do so. It’s the only way for your company to rise above the crowd and get noticed.
Does it sound like I am pandering to the PR world? Damn straight I am. A day does not pass that I am not interacting with PR teams. My business depends on them.
Richard Stiennon is Chief Research Analyst for IT-Harvest, the firm he founded in 2005 to cover the 2,322 vendors that make up the IT security industry. Author of Security Yearbook 2020, he has presented on the topic of cyber-security in 31 countries on six continents. He was a lecturer at Charles Sturt University in Australia. He is the author of Secure Cloud Transformation: The CIO’s Journey and Surviving Cyberwar (Government Institutes, 2010) and Washington Post Best Seller, There Will Be Cyberwar. He writes for Forbes, CSO Magazine, and The Analyst Syndicate. He is a member of the advisory board at the Information Governance Initiative and several technology startups. Stiennon was Chief Strategy Officer for Blancco Technology Group, the Chief Marketing Officer for Fortinet, Inc. and VP Threat Research at Webroot Software. Prior to that, he was VP Research at Gartner, Inc. He has a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and his MA in War in the Modern World from King’s College, London.