The Early Startup’s Guide to PR Success

The roads of the Valley are littered with companies that believed that having the best technology would automatically ensure market success.  If only it were that simple.  Many a great product or service has failed because the associated marketing efforts did not match the thought and labor invested in product development.

When I began my career in 1981 at Atari, tech marketing was a nascent field.  We tried our best to apply tried and true marketing principles to a new game.  One of Atari’s last acts was to hire consumer packaged goods marketing experts, believing that the principles that guided marketing for those products would hold for tech.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  It failed miserably.  We know better now, and over time some key truths have emerged which the savvy the startup founder can learn from.  We’ll start by reviewing a few important things you should consider as you search for your agency partner:

  1. Tech PR is its own beast; there are complicated nuances, a myriad of best practices, landmines, important skills and strategic judgment that’s acquired over a long period of time.  Hire PR agency senior advisors that not only have at least twenty years of tech PR experience, but also have their fingers on the pulse of today’s constantly evolving PR ecosystem.
  2. Make sure the leaders of the firm are working on your business every day.  I can’t tell you how many horror stories my partner, Dave Fonkalsrud and I have heard from Marketing VPs or CEOs about hiring an agency. After the big guns have come in to pitch the business– enthusiastically promising their day to day involvement– these startups find themselves with a well-meaning junior person with a couple of years of experience running their PR efforts.  When you get references, ask the agency’s clients “Who works on your business every day?”
  3. Look at a person or agency’s track record.  There should be frequent examples of companies in similar situations to yours that have been taken to market leadership.

Next time, we’ll discuss how to ensure that your programs are successful once you’ve hired your agency partner.