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PR, Your Startup and You

Jun 12, 2008
Many startups, and for that matter, small businesses that are still in their infancy, struggle with certain PR and marketing issues. The first question that many entrepreneurs have is "How do I get the PR and marketing that I need to get attention?"

This is a valid question and one that should not be taken lightly. PR today means a lot more than it did 5 or 10 years ago. Today you have traditional media - TV, print and radio as well as the new media - social networking, blogs, and podcast, search engines, vcasts and more. All of these are great and can be very effective if:

* You know who you want to reach
* You know how the people you want to reach choose to get information

It doesn't make much sense to use radio if your target audience doesn't listen to radio. It also doesn't make sense to use vcasts if your target audience is not tech savvy.

One of the most important decisions that you have to make in a startup or small business is to determine what is news worthy. You have to decide the message that you want to convey to your audience. Bloggers, journalists and target customers are all very busy people with a limited amount of time. Few of them are going to search for your message and even fewer are going to ponder what your message means. You have to tell them.

Your message may change slightly for each type of media. The old saying that "a picture is worth a thousand words" still holds true. A video press release communicates differently than a standard 300 - 500 word written press release.

The person who delivers your message, your spokesperson, must be well spoken and well prepared. They must also be able to speak to your audience. If you are the founder and CEO and love "tech speak" you may not be the right person to speak to a non-technical audience. Sure, your product or service may have some of the latest and greatest technology packed into it, but your customers may only care that it solves their problems - not that it is the latest and greatest. Speaking to your audience is critical. A lot of press releases never see the light of day because they are not tailored to the media, venue or audience that they seek to serve.

Deciding whether to do your PR in house or to hire an outside firm is up to you. You could buy an ebook on PR and try your hand - and the truth is that you may have some success, if you understand what you read, can accurately translate this into action and have the time to do it right. Or, you could hire a PR firm to do all of the work for you. Each of these has pros and cons.

For most startups and small businesses that are truly watching their expenses the best solution may be to learn a little bit and hire a consultant or coach. I am sure that Steve Jobs had someone help him develop his over the top marketing and PR persona for Apple.

Greg Bowens, Managing Partner of Bowens & Company in Southfield, MI who has handled PR for startups, major city mayors, government agencies and non-profit organizations emphasizes that you must develop media and PR relationships before you need them. That includes engaging a consultant or adviser. Many PR professionals worked in the media in the past. They can help you form great relationships with the media. Forming a relationship with them will help you to form your PR goals and craft your message so that you can properly communicate it to the media and ultimately the people in your audience.

Waiting until you need a PR professional is like waiting until you have a disease to find a doctor. Neither is good, smart or prudent. Just as your doctor needs time to get to know you and your body, health and lifestyle, your PR professional needs time to know your business so that they can help you develop a workable strategy. They may also know the type of stories that the media is seeking at various times. This knowledge alone can help you identify unique PR opportunities that may otherwise be lost.

One last thought about getting Great PR

We all have a "pet" societal problem that we want to see solved. This may be poverty, hunger, education, homelessness, emergency help, breast cancer or any other myriad number of worthy causes that can motivate one to take action to help. Find one that you are passionate about and offer your services - either personally or professionally. You may get some great PR out of the deal. This is one of those things that money just can't buy.
About the Author
Art Espey is a serial entrepreneur who has grown several businesses in both good and bad economic times. Art can be reached at www.4steps2.com.
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