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PR is Unnecessary...Except It Isn't
By: Mike Bush
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The original headline for this was going to be “Uberflack Says Flacks Are Unnecessary…Then Extols Virtues of Flacks,” but that didn’t seem likely to fit onto the homepage. In a meandering piece featuring Brew Media Relations founder Brooke Hammerling, Brooke gives advice to startups about when they do and don’t need PR.

Some of her advice is truly outstanding, and if you’ve been in the field for a while, you tend to agree with it. Paraphrasing:
  • Create a strong elevator speech.
  • Create a compelling narrative.
  • Get buy-in early on messaging from all of the company’s stakeholders.  
  • Make sure you do your homework on reporters who cover your space (read what they’ve written).
  • Focus on relationships with the media as opposed to being a salesperson when talking to them.
Note: some of those skills require a communications professional, or, at the very least, someone with strong communications skills.

While I can’t tell if the angle was Brooke’s or the reporter’s, there’s an obvious slant of “startups don’t need PR people,” when Brooke herself discusses situation after situation where her firm helped a client. It’s an odd (really impressive) series of case studies about how a PR firm did great work to help their clients build their businesses…while at the same time, a story about why companies don’t need PR.

As you’d imagine, the comments section seems to be both in agreement and argument. And that makes sense. Some startups don’t need a PR consultant or professional.

However, many do.

There are a couple of benefits to having a consultant/professional that are missed in the article.
  • Ability to see the trees for the forest. Typically, startups have a passion for what it is they’re working on day after day. However, just because a developer (or team of developers) is at the tail end of completing the next iteration of a product doesn’t mean that product is newsworthy. One of the best ways to burn the relationships that Hammerling discusses is by regularly sending a journalist “news” without any news value.
  • Refining the message. PR pro or communications consultant, by and large, it’s important to have someone who can craft that initial elevator speech, and also react to changes in the market. When your company is first to market, it’s easy to be the leader in the space. However, if you get passed (perhaps Google launched a competitor), having someone there to shift gears immediately can help immensely.
  • Building relationships takes time. It does. When you’ve got a good PR person, presumably one with lots of experience in your product category, those relationships should already be established.
  • In case of emergency. Look, many companies will never need to have a crisis communications situation. But for those that do, having a resource with a deep understanding of the company will virtually always help to limit damage when necessary.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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