There are lots of dumb things you could do as a startup entrepreneur — like base your company out of Bakersfield, allow yourself to be acquired by Groupon in an all-stock transition, or pitch your growing U.S.-based startup to the Samwer brothers — but nothing could be more dumb than throwing your hard-earned venture capital money at a public relations firm.
Sure, many startup founders out there don’t have the first clue about how to “do” public relations for their startup. They’ll think long and hard before finally plopping down that $12,000 retainer fee — with a required six month commitment — out of their precious Series A investment.
Don’t do it.
As a former journalist who entered PR for a few years (working in-house, managing PR firms, working with them on joint announcements, and consulting with other startups) I can tell you that most PR firms I worked with are full of sh*t. I’m not saying there isn’t some value, but the value is nowhere near enough to justify the cost, given your limited resources.
Here are five reasons PR firms are crap:
1. They don’t know how to tell a story
I’ll be honest, working in “professional” news and reading press releases every morning really honed my sense of what does and does not make a story. I was able to sift through all the hyperbole from clichéd PR specialists and figure out a way to tell an interesting story. (At least I hope it was interesting!)
So when I joined the ranks of PR, I always thought backwards: from the point of view of the specific trade journalist, to writing the press release so that the journalist would see those points. Unfortunately, most PR people don’t know how to do this.