Navigating PR in the startup world: myths and realities

Public Relations is a vital aspect of any organisation's communication strategy, essential for shaping and maintaining a positive image in the eyes of the public.

In popular culture, fictional characters like Samantha Jones from Sex and the City and Olivia Pope from Scandal have highlighted the significance and dynamic nature of this profession. However, PR is much more than its glamorous portrayals on screen. It goes far beyond just media coverage and also includes crisis management, community relations and social media strategies – crucial elements for startups aiming to make their mark.

This article explores the various dimensions of PR, from its role in reputation management to its impact on customer loyalty and brand awareness. We will debunk common myths about PR, providing clarity and real-world examples to help startups understand the true nature and importance of this multifaceted profession.

Myth 1: PR is just about getting media coverage

Although media reporting is an important part of PR, it encompasses much more. PR is also about community relations, crisis management, event planning, video campaigns, internal communications and social media strategies. A good example is how the clothing brand Patagonia uses PR to promote environmental issues.

Patagonia organises events under the ‘Environmental Activism’ tag, such as cleanups, and launches video projects highlighting its sustainability commitment. This goes beyond just press releases and helps the company connect with its target group and effectively communicate its brand values. Startups can take inspiration from Patagonia and leverage comprehensive PR strategies to establish a solid foundation for brand identity and growth.

Myth 2: PR is only for large corporations

Small businesses and startups can also benefit significantly from PR. Local media outreach, community events and social media engagement are cost-effective ways to increase awareness. Small businesses can boost their digital profile by sharing blog posts and videos on social media. This is an affordable way to build positive brand awareness and create new connections.

An excellent example is Ruby Cup, a social enterprise that sells and donates menstrual cups to girls in developing countries. With limited resources, they have built strong brand awareness through local PR initiatives, collaborations with influencers and social media campaigns.

Myth 3: Paid PR/Sponsored content is not real PR

Paid PR and sponsored content are legitimate tools within a broader PR strategy. These paid efforts can complement organic PR, increase reach and effectively target specific audiences. Sponsored articles, collaborations with influencers and paid placements are examples of such strategies. A study by Harvard Business found that a 1% increase in influencer marketing led to an increase in engagement of 0.46%, suggesting that working with sponsored influencer marketing can positively influence the ROI.

A good example is a sponsored article by PRNEWS.IO in collaboration with IBTimes, which highlighted the startup’s strategic expansion into the Asian market. The article covered PRNEWS.IO's incorporation of a wholly owned subsidiary in Hong Kong, detailing how this move aims to facilitate sales in the region. This initiative not only increased PRNEWS.IO’s visibility but also effectively targeted a specific audience interested in market expansions and financial operations. By combining paid and organic PR, startups can maximise the impact of their brand and deliver their message more effectively.

Myth 4: PR results are immediate

PR can be seen as a long-term investment that takes time to pay off. Consistency and patience are essential aspects of building relationships and managing brand reputation. While it's tempting to expect quick results in a world of instant gratification, PR is a complex field. The process of a PR campaign involves multiple phases, such as research, strategic development, implementation and evaluation. Results range from short-term media attention to long-term changes in brand perception and customer loyalty.

A good example of this is Airbnb's social media campaign, ‘Belong Anywhere’. Since launching in 2014, Airbnb has consistently invested in telling its users' stories and building a community through social media. This long-term effort has contributed to a strong brand image and global brand recognition.

Myth 5: PR is manipulation

Ethical PR practices focus on transparency and building trust. Effective PR is not about manipulating the truth, but about communicating honestly and openly. This includes crisis management that prioritises honesty and transparent communication strategies.

A notable example is Zenefits, a SaaS platform for HR management, which faced a major PR crisis in 2016 when it was revealed that many of its employees were selling insurance without proper licenses. In response, the startup’s board quickly fired the CEO and Founder, Parker Conrad, and appointed David Sacks as the new CEO. Sacks promptly apologized to customers and outlined the steps the company would take to rectify the situation. Despite the initial media frenzy and subsequent layoffs of over 45% of its workforce, Zenefits demonstrated a strong commitment to change. This approach has earned the company praise over time, illustrating that transparency and decisive action can help rebuild a tarnished brand.

Myth 6: No story means no need for PR

Even without a big story, there are always PR opportunities. Newsjacking is a method where you use trending news to bring your brand into the conversation. Thought leadership involves publishing articles or whitepapers on industry trends to establish your brand as an authority. Community engagement emphasises ongoing involvement in the community or small initiatives that reflect the company's values.

The Ordinary, a popular skincare brand from Canada, has a very science-backed approach that made them grow immensely over the past decade. They create stories around new product launches by focusing on specific ingredients. They use their social channels, website and in-person shops as outlets for education. Their audience feels empowered by knowledge and can make better decisions about their skincare routine. Over the years, they have made quite an impact on how consumers buy skincare products and many have followed suit. Startups can learn from this by consistently finding angles to engage and educate their audience.

Myth 7: The impact of PR can’t be measured

Modern tools and metrics can indeed measure PR's impact. Measurements such as media coverage analysis, social media metrics, brand sentiment analysis, website traffic and lead generation make it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of PR efforts.

For example, tools like Google Analytics can track website traffic and conversions resulting from PR campaigns. Social media monitoring tools provide insights into engagement and brand awareness. By using these metrics, startups can determine and optimise the ROI of their PR strategies.


Public relations is a versatile field that goes beyond just media reporting. Debunking common PR myths reveals the depth and diversity of its impact on organisations of all sizes.

Startups can benefit from a well-rounded PR strategy, and with modern measurement tools, the effectiveness of PR campaigns can be accurately evaluated, ensuring that they can continuously refine their approaches and achieve long-term success.