If you're like a lot of startups, your marketing budget is extremely tight, or perhaps even non-existent. And if you do have some money to spend, your first thought is likely to put that money toward something that seems easy, like AdWords or maybe even a small social media buy. And while those can be good tactics to generate sales, chances are they'll have a small short-term benefit, fizzle out, and then you'll be back where you started.
Every business is different, but if you're interested in refining your messaging, building your brand, and generating buzz that doesn't die when your budget does, you may want to consider investing in a PR program first. PR doesn't just mean press release - it means public relations, but it's become so much more than that. PR is about the way you communicate your business or your product not only to external stakeholders like media, customers and partners, but also to your internal stakeholders like employees, investors and board members.
A good PR person is a good communicator, and above all, a good writer. They should get to know your business, how it works, and what makes it hum. They should help you refine your messaging: How do you talk about your brand? Is it the same way that your sales team talks about it? Your developers? Can you explain what you do to your mom? To my mom? They'll help you develop the written content you need to use throughout your marketing channels. Do you have an intern running your Twitter account? Great, but maybe they could use some guidance. A good PR person can help you with that. Ever written a press release or wondered how you competitor got that profile on the local news/tech pub/trade media? Either they got lucky, or they had public relations support. A good PR person will find those newsworthy nuggets and use media relations to reach out to targeted media that might be interested in covering your business.
PR isn't just about spin or managing public opinion in a crisis. Yes we do that too, but if you haven't engaged someone to manage your communications before a crisis hits, you'll likely find it's too little, too late. A solid, wholistic marketing program incorporates a variety of paid and unpaid media across channels, but if you're on a tight budget, want to boost your visibility and don't know where to put your dollars, consider a solid public relations partner.