When to Hire a PR Team (And When Not to)
Everyone knows that they need public relations and digital marketing support, but how do you know when it’s the right time to bring in outside counsel?
Karbo Com was recently contacted by a tech startup interested in hiring a PR team. On our initial call together, we discussed their needs, priorities and goals. The company was developing an intriguing, well differentiated product in a rapidly expanding industry, and the prospect of working with them to develop a foundational strategy was something we were all very excited about.
But as we learned more, it became clear that while the startup had enormous potential, the timing for PR involvement was off. As the call was coming to a close and the founders were discussing next steps, our CEO Julie Karbo spoke up. “While we’d love to work with you, we’ve got to be honest: it’s too early for you to bring on a PR team,” she said. There was a stunned silence on the other end of the line. We went on to explain why in detail.
Later that evening, a follow-up email arrived in our inbox with the subject line, Thank You. “Every other PR firm was ready to take our business,” it said. “We appreciate your honest advice. When we do move forward with PR, we’ll be moving forward with Karbo Com.”
It can be difficult to know when it’s the right time to bring on outside PR counsel, especially as a startup. Everyone knows PR is part of the equation and that it’s a must-have. But to truly leverage PR and ensure that it’s as effective as it can be, PR needs to be plugged into your startup’s larger business strategy. And the timing must be right.
If your startup is thinking about bringing on a PR team, here are a few things to consider. You know it’s the right time to bring on outside PR counsel when:
You’re launching your company and you need to get the attention of prospective customers, investors, potential employees and partners
- Your company plans to launch from stealth.
- If you’re unfamiliar with all the moving parts that go into launching a company, you can save yourself a lot of headaches by consulting with an experienced PR team.
- While something can be done in two weeks, to ensure your PR team has sufficient time to execute a successful launch, you’re doing yourself a favor by allowing for between six to eight weeks prior to product GA to begin execution of your PR plan.
- You’re closing Seed/Series A funding.
- Bring on your PR team with sufficient lead time before you file docs with the SEC. Once the filing is complete, your funding is on the public record, and you no longer control how you announce your company to the world. Either an AI program or a sharp-eyed financial reporter scanning the SEC site will write from the public paperwork.
- Your first product is in beta and you anticipate selling the product within the next three to six months.
- Products that disrupt or introduce something not currently available in the market deserve a minimum six to eight weeks lead time before a public announcement.
- You have a major release of an existing product or a new offering and it’s essential that the launch drive demand.
- Your PR team can help you create positioning that clearly differentiates your product and secure coverage from the top press and other influencers to drive demand.
You’re facing increasing competition
- You’re finding it harder to break through the noise and differentiate your solutions from those of competitors. Or you need ground cover to drive inbound sales leads or give your sales team cover so prospects and other important stakeholders know who you are when you contact them.
You’re quietly succeeding, but your e-team and your CEO have little or no visibility and aren’t considered industry leaders or visionaries
- PR can help to secure market leadership so that you’re driving trends and standing out from the competition.
You need to educate the market and lay the groundwork for something radical or disruptive
- You’ve invented something that sounds incredible or too good to be true, so you need to conduct a credible, educational campaign to explain the need for your product and where it fits before the market is ready to embrace the product itself.
You’re not ready to bring on outside PR when:
- You don’t have beta users willing to speak publicly about their experiences with your new product OR you don’t have outsiders (e.g., investors, industry analysts, customers, partners, etc.) who can vouch for the industry need for what you’re offering.
- You’re not prepared to dedicate the budget or the time to ensure your outreach is successful and persistent.
- You believe successful PR is writing a press release that announces your new company or new product, but that’s all you’re willing to invest in for the time being.
- When done right, launching a company, new product or announcing a funding round pumps up market awareness that is sure to drive traffic to your website, sales leads to your door, and interest in your company’s next moves. But your PR team can’t use smoke and mirrors to create a successful launch. It takes your support.
Follow the guidelines above, and you can be confident that you’re laying the groundwork for an effective and fruitful PR relationship.
Is your startup checking all the right boxes? Think you’re ready to move forward with PR? Contact us. We’ll be honest with you and tell you if you’re ready or what you need to do to get there.