Startup accelerators and incubators cover an array of industries including biotech, consumer products, healthcare, and medical technology to name a few. Every year, entrepreneurs apply and wait in anticipation to be accepted so they can receive funding, mentoring, and support for their new products, services or platforms.
In fact, since 2005, the number of accelerators and incubators has quadrupled exponentially. Accelerators are increasing in importance and are the driving force in stimulating start-up communities and producing significant outcomes. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Early evidence demonstrates the significant potential of accelerators to improve startups’ outcomes, and for these benefits to spill over into the broader startup community.”
What does this have to do with PR?
Let’s say your start-up applies to an accelerator and gets accepted. The funding comes from the accelerator, and you receive cash and much needed support. You are thrilled that your startup graduated and secured capital to get your business up and running. After preparing documents, receiving funding from the accelerator as well as guidance and wise counsel, you are ready to hit the ground running.
Since your company is new and not well known and the media isn’t saying much about your products, services or platforms, you don’t believe you need to hire a PR firm. You also don’t view PR as crucial to your business nor do you see the value in investing time and resources into it.
Unfortunately, many startups don’t believe they need PR because they’re not yet known. Many don’t realize the power of PR and why it’s crucial to their businesses.
PR raises a new business’ profile, builds relationships, and enhances credibility and shapes public perceptions. PR can help prove the viability of a product, service or platform and also build relationships with the public.
When should you hire a PR firm?
The late Alan Weinkrantz was a pioneer in tech industry public relations and communications in San Antonio, Texas. He mentored many inspiring startups and believed that PR was essential in sharing their visions with clients and telling their stories. He said, “Approximately six months before you are ready to launch your startup’s first product, service or platform, Public Relations should be part of your strategic planning and branding.” Weinkrantz also believed that PR should be part of every startup’s development and marketing strategy.
How do you choose a PR agency?
1) Choose an agency that has experience in your sector, has plenty of relevant media contacts and can demonstrate its agility and ability to hit the ground running. Keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better and don’t overlook PR boutique firms. They are smaller and specialized, have senior-level individuals doing the bulk of the work on your account, and they are less expensive, flexible and more nimble than their larger counterparts. According to Bulldog Reporter, in some boutique firms, the founder manages every client account. “Many clients don’t need a four-person team—one that can cost you $1k each time they meet to discuss your account.”
2) Hiring a small boutique PR firm means your startup will likely be the firm’s biggest client and would be treated as such. Due to their size, boutique PR firms have fewer clients as opposed to medium and large PR firms. Larger PR firms need 20 or more clients and require robust budgets to work with them. PR boutiques are much smaller, come in an array of specialties and represent an excellent value for your investment.
3) With any PR firm you consider hiring, ask them how they plan to measure success. Since your company is a startup there’s no access to month-by-month and year-by-year reports comparisons to examine improvements or declines. However, a boutique PR agency can help you by suggesting goals, researching your competition, leveraging your startup’s uniqueness factor and providing PR strategies that will give your startup more bang for its buck.
Now, get started.
PR can help accelerator graduates and startups tell their stories, share their visions, and present compelling reasons their brands are preferable to the competition. PR can also help to establish credibility, share lessons learned, utilize customer feedback and communicate successful sales stories and steps taken to better meet customer demands. Alan Weinkrantz once said that part of having a startup is dreaming about it first, determining what could be done and then executing your vision. PR provides the tools that can not only help budding entrepreneurs dream big but also watch their dreams come to fruition.
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