The risks of overlooking a robust PR strategy while scaling your business
PR is not always top of your list when founding a business but at some point, you’re going to need it if you want the world to know about you, and particularly to drive inbound traffic to your new website.
There are several reasons why founders need PR to help scale a business, way beyond just what is commonly assumed as just a service to generate press coverage. Your first step will be to create awareness within your network of your business and how it can help - these are your known contacts and ecosystem. You’ll probably also have a CRM/database of who you want to reach out to. But very quickly you will realise that other than paid SEO, you need a mechanism to drive people to it who have a need for what you do. This is where the science of inbound marketing comes in, and PR is just a part of this top of the funnel activity.
But let’s start at the beginning. Many businesses we encounter haven’t firmed up ‘the story’. So, number one in your journey needs to be:
This is your ‘stand out’ reason for being. Whilst nothing can ever be truly unique, you need to try to be with your storytelling. What is it that you solve? What do you do away with? What is the most compelling message about your newly founded business, your strapline? The beauty of PR is that it makes you think in essential facts rather than marketing puff as it needs to be credible and media/audience facing.
As this is in most cases going to be somewhere near the beginning of your journey you need awareness to win credibility among investor and tech / industry communities. PR can help with applications for investment (pre) as well as a lot of awareness in the community for the investment itself (post). This is an opportunity for you to articulate the company story and to test it with one of the hardest audiences of all.
From here, and most fundamentally, it’s about growing the business and how PR comes in to support this. Many founders or CEOs don’t realise how much they can optimise their PR engagement. There is an ongoing debate on whether marketing sits in comms, or comms sits in marketing. Either way the two must be entirely integrated to get the magic 1+1=3, and your messages amplified to make consistent noise both in your outbound and your inbound activity. Big ideas from your comms team can really help your brand sing. Backed up by compelling content on the website, in email campaigns, in external news articles, as well as social media (in particular LinkedIn) will create a momentum effect. We often hear scaleups saying “I’ve been told my company is just appearing everywhere” and this is really the desired effect from comms working hand in hand with marketing.
Where PR goes wrong, or really right
So, it seems like a no-brainer, right? So how is it there are so many tales of poor PR experience in business? I’d boil this down to a couple of common PR mistakes that scaling companies should avoid. Firstly, whilst PR should be self-managing and not take up the time you do not have when growing a business, you do need to allocate just the odd 15 minutes per week to impart your magic dust and words of wisdom. This should be the spark that helps your team create their content for marketing or PR, or makes the difference between an interview/profile, or none. You also need to approve what they deliver (or someone in the company does), or else it sits in the organisation, whilst your competition gets ahead. You (or they) also need to ensure that when they drive interest to your website, they find resources to or people to help them on the buyer journey.
Secondly, you don’t have to allocate a significant budget or invest hugely at the beginning. Pick a team or agency that gets the business idea and wants to see you scale. Hearts and minds are what you need at the early stage - and probably way beyond. It’s not big and shiny that will get your results at the outset, it’s speed, passion and dedication. Your comms people should be able to pitch your business as well as you can (well, nearly) and spread the word with enthusiasm. And as every founder knows, having people onside who can input more than what they are officially hired to do, means everything at the outset.