You’ve got your startup in a good place, you know what differentiates it from competitors, and your messaging is on point — so now you’re ready for a huge PR push, right? Well, hold on a minute.
One of the biggest ways startups set themselves up for failure is by getting ahead of themselves. You may be doing well now, but consider the possibilities if you suddenly get 10, 20, 50 percent more business coming your way. Sounds like a good problem to have, sure, but not being prepared can cause a lot of problems down the road. And while you may be able to catch up, do you really want to put your business in that much strain? Before you call your PR agent, consider these questions first.
Do you look legit?
In these days, coming off professionally means a lot more than just having a great product or service to offer. Think about the last time you made a purchase. Did you hear about a business, pick up the phone and give them a call? Maybe you did, but chances are you did a lot more research on your own first.
If someone were to hear about your startup, they’re more than likely to check out your website and social profiles first to get a better picture of your business. Is your website up-to-date and optimized for SEO? What about your social profiles?
It’s important that all your digital assets are clean and updated with accurate information, because whether you like it or not, that’s where potential customers are going to get the bulk of their information before they ever jump on a call with you. The great news is that if you do have all these things in line up front, you can let their internet search do a lot of the work for you, and closing the deal will be a cinch.
If you’re not sure of what social platforms you should be on, take a look at where your competitors are. For example, even if it might not seem to make sense on Instagram, you may want to reconsider if most of your competitors are posting and hashtagging away. Do what makes most sense for your startup, and make sure you have enough resources dedicated to maintaining those profiles to maintain relevancy.
Does timing make sense?
Chances are if you’re considering a PR push, you’re ready to share your startup with the world. Pause for a moment and make sure the passion behind your brainchild isn’t getting the best of you. If you feel like your product is ready but you’ve recently lost a few key employees or don’t know where your next seed investment is going to come from, you may need to tap the brakes. Results of a PR push can be almost immediate, and if you’re not ready right then and there, you may want to hold off on until your environment’s re-stabilized.
You also want to consider the climate of the industry you’re in and timing on the publications’ end. For example, it’s an exciting time in Austin right now as the city fills with activity during SXSW. If you were to send a press release to local publications right now, chances are it would fall through the cracks while journalists are away from their desks. This is something a PR agency would most likely warn you about, but it doesn’t hurt to also personally keep in mind.
Are you ready to scale?
Say you’re a small software startup with 10 employees and 100 customers. Your press release goes out, interest piques, and all of a sudden you’re getting more leads. Who’s going to respond to those inquiries? And if they become customers, who’s going to provide them with long-term support?
In order to be prepared for a successful PR push, you basically have to be over-prepared. Hire part-time support and train them to know enough about your product and business to be able to answer incoming queries. If you’re a software company, make sure you have enough server space for new customers. Without these safeguards set in place, a potential customer could lose interest when they don’t hear back for weeks, and new customers could get dissatisfied with an insufficient or delayed product.
Can you deliver?
Not having enough server space is just one example of not being able to deliver. If you have a physical product to sell, do you have enough inventory to fulfill an uptick in orders?
Remember that your first impression is important. If someone hears about you and orders your product, but has to wait a month to receive it, chances are they’re not going to purchase it again. Even worse, they may leave a bad review online and tell their friends about their bad experience, meaning you lose even more potential customers and gain a poor reputation that’s going to take a whole lot more PR effort for you to change.
PR is a powerful tool for startups, and can really help you grow when you’re ready. But just like with anything else powerful, you have to make sure you’re ready to handle it, or else the effects may be just as bad as it could have been good. Take time to think it through, and when you’re ready, go get ‘em!
About Rebekah Epstein
Rebekah Epstein is a publicist and mentor to PR firms and small businesses. After cutting her teeth at prestigious New York publications and the notorious People’s Revolution firm, Rebekah moved to Austin, TX, and started fifteen media, a boutique PR firm that specializes in training workshops and traditional public relations services. Rebekah is also the founder and author of NeonNotebook, an advice blog for professional Gen Y women.
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