To hire a PR firm or not to hire a PR firm? An age-old question. Companies, large and small, rely on having good reputations. PR firms promise you exactly that. They advocate on your behalf through paid, earned, and owned media. PR firms help businesses spread the word about themselves, but they are not a great fit for everyone. Here are five reasons why start-ups should seek alternatives to PR firms.
1) It is expensive
It can be very, very expensive to hire a PR firm. One of the reasons the price tag is so high is that PR firms charge retainers. Retainers are fees that PR firms charge every month for a set period of time. Retainers are not project-specific, they could stretch out over long periods of time, and PR agencies charge them even if they are not actively doing anything. They can range from $1,200 up to $20,000 per month. Even though PR agencies that charge by the hour or by the project (e.g. a press release, local TV coverage, radio coverage) do exist, they can get pricey as well. For example, $500 for a press release might not be much for a large firm but could quickly overwhelm a bootstrapped or early-stage start-up.
2) Traditional media is not as influential anymore
Many PR firms have now expanded to encompass social media in their arsenal of PR tools. However, not all PR firms have adapted to the shift in people’s media preferences. With social media coming center stage, it is time for brands to become more critical of where and how they want to be noticed. If the app that you created is meant to improve the mental health of teenagers, do you really need a spot on TV? Or radio coverage? Or would it be best to focus on TikTok or Instagram, and appear as a guest on relevant podcasts?
3) Inefficient use of time
As mentioned above, PR firms often charge retainers, even for the months when no actual work gets done. They are human-intensive and rely on people to do all the work, with little to no automation. This sets them up for slow, inefficient work. Larger firms have the luxury of being able to wait out these draughts of no publicity, but start-ups cannot afford to do this. Startups need to move quickly and a month of inaction can have dreadful consequences. The pace of PR firms simply does not match up to the pace of start-ups.
4) PR could be done in-house
No one knows your start-up, your industry or your clients, better than you do. Start-ups often have granular audiences, which outsiders simply cannot wrap their heads around. People that work at your start-up are the experts on your audiences and are more likely to come up with content that resonates with them. Therefore, startups should consider having a team member manage their PR, or purchase a PR tool, such as EllisX.
5) Use PR tools instead
In 2021, we are incredibly lucky to not be limited to just two options of either doing PR in-house or hiring a PR firm. Various tools and technologies that bridge the gap between pure outsourcing of PR and having full control of it in-house have sprung up over the last couple of years. For example, we at EllisX have built a software that displays available speaking and media opportunities and allows start-ups to connect directly with journalists, podcasters, and event organizers. It is a great tool to have in your arsenal, if you do not want to be tied to a PR firm.
It is important to remember that PR firms could be a great option for some companies, but they might not suit others. They are not a one size fits all, and that’s why we at EllisX believe that startups could benefit from having more control over their exposure with PR tools, that help bring PR in-house.