Public relations (PR) helps businesses that are concerned about fostering a positive image and promoting mutual understandings between the organizations and people who matter. Here I am highlighting six important things startup entrepreneurs should know about PR:
1. PR is more than just about media relations
Media relations is important but it is not the only work of PR that a startup can employ and media pitching is not the only responsibility of professionals in the field.
PR is about communications with various groups of people that matter to the organization, not just with journalists. This includes investors, shareholders, employees, customers (existing and prospects), business partners, interest groups, community, general public, and governments. So the responsibility of PR goes beyond establishing and managing media relations to include managing perceptions, brand and crisis, and also planning for events, to name a few. At some companies, depending on their business and what they want to achieve, PR also functions as analyst relations, internal relations, public affairs, and/or investor relations.
2. PR is not only about press releases
Press releases are an effective communication to announce company or product messages that are newsworthy and to get the attention of media. However, press releases are not the only communication used in PR. As explained in #1, journalists are not the only public that a company communicates with. Besides writing and distributing press releases, different tools, methods and approaches are used in PR to address the diverse needs for communications with the various groups of people.
So how else does a company communicate with its public other than through a press release? You might ask. There are actually various ways of communications depending on factors such as audience demographics, occasion, and timing. Op-ed, websites, webinars, tour meetings, press conferences, social media networks, press and info kits, annual reports, white papers, bulletin boards, newsletters, and user case studies are some examples of ways to get the word out about a product/service, engage with the audiences or respond to a crisis.
3. PR is not sales
A PR program is set with an objective to create awareness about a brand or an organization, and, it is also put in place to influence change in behaviors among the audiences. However, PR is not to be confused with a sales campaign that promotes selling of a product/service or aims at turning business leads into customers during the campaign period. I shall emphasize here that the terms PR and sales are not interchangeable. Sales and PR actually work in close association in a company.
4. PR is not the same as advertising
PR and advertising are two different practices in mass communications, but not everybody understands that. Advertisements are paid for. Advertisers are guaranteed the media spots they have agreed upon and purchased for. Meanwhile, in PR, as far as editorial coverage is concerned, it is earned. PR practitioners establish media relations with relevant journalists and make efforts to convince them of story ideas and to submit press releases and other information. What’s happening in real world is that PR and advertising co-exist in some companies including in small startups too.
5. PR is not just for big businesses
PR is about management of communications between the business and its public. It is a function that actually works in every business. PR works both in privately-held and publicly-listed companies that have shareholders to communicate with. So, even if it’s a one-person software startup business, PR is still applicable, for example, to spread the word about the product to the audiences using press releases, brochures or a website, as well as, to build and maintain reputation with research analysts, venture capitalists and others. It is not true that only big businesses should employ PR.
6. PR is not replaced by social media
PR is not dead. Social media does not replace PR. In fact, social media and PR work hand in hand in a company. The benefits of sharing content and instant communications that come from a social media practice can help empower a communications campaign. Applications like Twitter and Facebook are commonly integrated in PR programs to broadcast corporate news, to promote product updates, to collect feedback and others.
Final thought: PR has important roles in a startup business. Having a good understanding of PR can help optimize communications strategy. Startup entrepreneurs who yearn to take your company to the next level should know that:
- PR is more than just about press coverage;
- PR does not equal press releases;
- PR does not replace sales agents;
- PR and advertising can co-exist in a company;
- PR also works for bootstrapped startup companies;
- PR is alive in the social media era.