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When is the right time and stage to hire a PR agency?

When you venture online, you'll encounter a multitude of opinions regarding the value and necessity of hiring a PR firm. Often, these discussions reveal a lack of consensus among individuals, and rarely do they reach unanimous agreement. If anything, there seems to be a shared understanding that placing the hiring of a PR firm on a specific timeline, such as "early" in a company's development or after a funding round, is not the key determinant. Instead, the critical factor revolves around having a well-crafted story to tell or a business that boasts a viable product and some early traction, including investments, customers, and experienced hires.

Some responses to these discussions were cringe-worthy from the perspective of someone in the PR industry. One example involved a startup founder with no prior funding who hired a PR firm due to their belief in having a solid product-market fit and a desire to generate awareness. This founder embarked on a three-month project and only saw their first coverage in the third month. Understandably, they began to question the cost-effectiveness of continuing with monthly PR services.

In response to this situation, a CEO of a PR firm suggested that the three-month mark is when things typically start gaining momentum, although he didn't elaborate on what happens earlier. This statement was challenged by the Managing Director of another PR firm, who argued that PR agencies taking three months to secure their first piece of coverage was subpar service. He asserted that skilled PR professionals could produce results within weeks or even days. The agency CEO clarified that there is a distinction between publicity and positioning, with the latter requiring more time, strategy, and engagement with key influencers.

The online comments continued, echoing familiar sentiments found in internet discussions. Some comments humorously noted that if you can't measure the benefits of PR, it might be because there aren't any. Others emphasized the importance of having a compelling story, positioning, and market fit in place before engaging in PR activities.

One founder highlighted the value of consulting with experienced PR professionals, likening their role to that of seasoned lawyers and accountants. These professionals can uncover considerations that founders might not have initially contemplated when starting their businesses. However, it was stressed that the right PR professional should operate with integrity and provide guidance that aligns with the startup's development stage, acknowledging when PR may be unnecessary or premature.

In agreement with these sentiments, the advice given was to invest in PR strategically and view it as a long-term commitment to the business. This perspective doesn't suggest that results take a long time to materialise but underscores the need to establish a presence, nurture relationships with influential figures, and maintain those connections for future benefits. The timing should align with the company's readiness for such an investment.

PR isn't about instant promotion and attention; it's about building a brand and reputation through consistent messaging, vision, company culture, and voice. In the realm of social media, where news cycles move rapidly, PR should be approached with a similar repetition and consistency as advertising. PR offers the advantage of authority but still requires a persistent and robust approach.

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