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Friday, May 13, 2011

Don’t Skimp on PR (by Liz Roop)

No start-up has an unlimited budget. In fact, successfully doing more with less is almost a rite of passage for entrepreneurs. But the smart ones know when it’s best not to cut corners. They wouldn’t dream of taking a do-it-yourself approach to protecting their intellectual property or securing venture funding.

Why are so many willing to do so with their public relations?

Yes, there are examples out there of entrepreneurs who successfully launched their own PR campaigns, netting the kind of national coverage everyone desires. But trust me when I say those campaigns are the exception and not the rule.

You don’t hear about the failures because…well…they failed. No newspapers or magazines told their stories. No trade journals sought them out for their expertise. Their blogs, Twitter accounts and/or Facebook pages fell dormant.

If it is important for your start-up to gain exposure through substantive media coverage, presentations, social media or any number of other non-paid communication channels, it is worth investing in a public relations agency with specific expertise in your industry.

What well-meaning “do-it-yourself-PR” advocates won’t tell you is that meaningful and sustained media coverage takes more than sending out a few (hopefully well-written) press releases. It requires a strategic approach that encompasses short- and long term objectives and targeted messaging disseminated via multiple appropriate channels to reach prospective clients and customers, business partners and referral sources.

Successful PR requires persistence. The best agencies are constantly scanning the industry to identify emerging trends they can leverage to position you as a thought leader or influencer. They are continuously interacting with the media covering your industry, with decision-makers and association leaders, so they know the pain points that are keeping your customers awake at night….and how what you’re selling can help them sleep more soundly.

Finally, effective PR requires knowing what the media and their readers want. It’s not news just because you say it is. An agency knows what is newsworthy about your company and how to convey that effectively to capture the attention of reporters, editors and bloggers so they tell your story.

There is something else the do-it-yourselfers won’t tell you:  hiring a public relations agency does not have to put an undue strain on your limited financial resources. Talk to a few boutique firms and you’ll find that a carefully tailored PR program is well within reach.

However, choosing an agency on price alone is almost always going to end badly. Programs can be scaled up or down to fit your budget, but if the experience isn’t there, the results won’t be either. That is why it is important to get referrals from your industry peers, and to ask for and check references.

And don’t forget to check out the agency’s website or social media pages. While many agencies won’t release their current client list, almost all of them (NPC included) post press releases, coverage and other client “wins.” It is one of the best ways to gauge how effective they will be with your program.

Liz Roop is president of NPC Creative Services (www.npccs.com), a virtual public relations agency specializing in healthcare, health IT and life sciences. You can reach Liz at:
NPC Creative Services
Phone: 813-960-6092 ext.302
Fax: 866-511-2347
Email: liz@npccs.com

A note from Taffy Williams:

Liz Roop is a PR advisor that I met while assisting a client company.  I interact with her regularly and she is always bringing new PR ideas to me.  She has worked with large and small companies.   When I asked her to help with the blog, she graciously accepted.   I am grateful for her input and enlightenment. Thank you Liz!

You can follow Taffy Williams on Twitter by @twilli2861 and you can email me with questions at twilli2861@aol.com and my company website is at http://www.ColonialTDC.com . You can also find me in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. The blog is now listed on Alltop®.