7 Questions Every Startup Should Ask When Hiring a PR Firm

Introducing your startup to the media is an important job–one that shouldn’t be done without careful research and consideration. Knowing what to expect from a potential PR firm is often challenging for startups. Here are some must-ask questions to address with any PR firm your startup is thinking of working with.

1. Who will do most of the daily work of promoting my startup?Large PR firms often have interns and inexperienced people on-hand to conduct research, preform initial pitches, manage media lists, and manage smaller accounts. Since you’re paying a PR firm to represent you, you should know what you’re paying for and how much of your account will be handled by “underlings” versus senior management.
2. How often will I see “top leadership” after the initial meeting?Top leadership in PR firms are often very good at “selling and closing deals” with clients, but are sometimes MIA from your regular meetings. Because top leadership is expensive, this can be cost-effective for startups, but it can also be a sign that a PR firm isn’t a good fit for your startup.

3. What kind of reporters will be pitched for my stories?Unless your startup’s potential customer base is incredibly limited and specific, chances are, your brand will appeal to many “verticals” or subjects that reporters cover. If a PR firm says they’ll focus on only “tech reporters” or reporters who cover “the startup space,” you’re limiting your potential. Look for PR firms that focus on specific reporter verticals that encompass many significant areas of your startup’s potential. Examples: Health-tech, Android, iPhone, Mobile Computing, Telecommunications, Early Childhood Education, Cardiology, Parenting. Get specific.
4. Who have you recently worked with that’s like my startup?You don’t want your startup to be a PR firm’s “first rodeo.” Look for past and current clients who have a similar business structure, audience, or outlook as your startup. They don’t have to be a competitor, but it shouldn’t be a stretch for a PR firm to work with your startup if they’ve worked with similar brands in the past.
5. How do you define success for a startup like me, in six months?This question will get you on the same page, fast. If they say they imagine you’ll have an article or two in a prominent blog in the coming months, that’s pretty slow. On the flip-side, if they promise thousands of media placements, that might be over-promising. Look for a PR firm that listens to the kind of business goals you have, and can align their PR expectations to your goals. Of course, PR firms can’t guarantee that reporters will “write” but they should be nimble enough to adjust strategies and tactics to get your startup media attention.
6. What is it about my startup that makes you want to work with us?Of course, PR firms need to make money, but that can’t be the driving reason for a firm to work with you as opposed to other brands. PR firms should have specific answers as to what it is about your startup that they find refreshing, interesting, sell-able, and compelling. If they can’t answer this, or if they phone in their answer because you’ve just partnered with a big brand, they don’t know “you for you.” Don’t work with them in this case, because they’re not a good fit.
7. Are there any concerns you have with working with a startup like mine?This is a good “catch all” question that may provide insight into something you missed or that they weren’t otherwise comfortable talking about. Listen to their answers.
The bottom line:Working with a PR firm is a partnership built on communication and honesty. Find a firm that is easy to work with and that knows how to work with you to get the results your brand needs. Like any good lasting relationship, it’s worth the time and effort with the right people involved.

About the Author: Jennifer L. Jacobson is a communications strategist who leverages marketing, brand identity, and public relations to help brands advance their voice in crowded industries. Her clients have been TIME’s best site of the year, and graced the likes of Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, Scientific American, USA Today, and thousands more. She is the founder of Jacobson Communication.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter:  @Jcommunication

Visit:  Jacobson Communication.


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