Hackernoon logo4 Ways How Entrepreneurs Make A Mess of Their Public Relations by@terng

4 Ways How Entrepreneurs Make A Mess of Their Public Relations

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@terngTerng Shing Chen

CEO of SYNC PR, a startup and SME focused PR and content agency.

I recently spoke to a Malaysian CEO with over 20 years of experience in technology and running multinational brands. We spoke at length about public relations and he felt that it was not a smart decision at the moment, since his new startup was only 18 months old.

Despite assurances from me and positive feedback from other entrepreneurs, he would not budge from his position.
This would have been very depressing a few years ago, but over two years into my own entrepreneurial journey and this has become commonplace (maybe a bit too much). I do not totally blame entrepreneurs though, in my experience, the industry has often failed the small business owner by refusing to adapt to the changing times.
To help alleviate some fears that entrepreneurs might have and also, hopefully educate those who have not had experience working with PR agencies or people, I’ve decided to openly discuss four mistakes that entrepreneurs make about PR.
Let’s just dive straight into the topic now.

Refusing to pay for good PR

So many entrepreneurs tell me that spending on PR is a waste of money, because a) they can do it themselves, b) it is expensive.
I know for a fact that most cannot effectively manage their PR on a long-term basis, because it is one of the most time-consuming parts of the marketing ecosystem.
To elaborate on that a bit more, I think the misconception arises from expectations and perceptions of what Public Relations is all about. For the most part, PR is actually a long and deliberate process. 
Hiring a PR agency to manage or change a business’ reputation involves patience and a lot of hard work. Often, the work we do now, only results in returns later on – could be weeks, months or even a year from now. 
For startups and small businesses to grow and avoid the inevitable growth stagnation, the smarter entrepreneurs turn to PR. By establishing a strong PR partner or internal team, they should be able to develop a sustainable strategy to grow their business even during lean periods. 

They measure the wrong things

This actually used to be true for a long time. The standard measurement practice (might still be for a lot of companies) used to be the measurement of PR value or the advertising value of the piece of coverage multiplied by a PR multiplier. This arbitrary figure could be 3, 5 or even 7 in some cases.
This was useless then and is even more so, as we are entering a new age of startups and SMEs needing measurable outcomes for anything marketing or PR campaign they invest in. 
With the right startup, they will look at measurement that matters and this varies by startup. At SYNC, we look at the following:
  • Increase in website traffic for brands that convert web traffic to sales
  • Downloads of a mobile app
  • Inbound lead generation for B2B startups, and even
  • Reduction in sales cycle timing to reduce the cost of acquisition

They think PR equals to press release

Why does every entrepreneur I speak to nowadays equate PR to press releases? If I hear another person say, why are you not budgeting for monthly press releases, I may need a holiday.
Do not get me wrong, press releases are extremely valuable tools, but need to be used wisely. Over-utilizing releases can reduce the value of your brand. Launching a brand new product that will become a major revenue driver for your brand definitely deserves a release, while a small partnership with no significance to your industry and brand may not require a full-fledged announcement. 
A good PR agency or team will help you plan your announcements and find creative ways to make sure you maintain good coverage for your brand even when there are no announcements. There are always interviews, industry stories and contributed articles. 
I look at contributed articles that benefit the client through relevance and SEO-benefits. For example, this contributed piece on a travel website about visiting Brisbane is useful because my client wanted to expand their reach into the travel community. A press release with no substance or launch would not have resulted in anything, but a targeted outreach campaign to drive engagement and followers to our client was more impactful.

Focusing on a narrow media pool

My least favourite quote from a client in Singapore goes something like this:
If aren’t getting coverage from The Straits Times then why are we even bothering to do any PR at all?
What preceded was a carefully executed plan that yielded interviews with the top business magazines and online websites in the country. This was both demoralizing and also very worrying for myself and the team. We were concerned he would just cancel all the interviews.

However, this story has a good ending for everyone involved. After some persuading, everything went as planned and we were able to get four really good interviews completed. The client was also able to double their inbound lead generation in the next month and has slowly, but surely come onboard to a more strategic way to look at PR.
Another example that is quite relevant to the industry in Southeast Asia right now is the reluctance or slow acceptance of podcasts as an effective medium. Brands are reluctant to put any effort into being featured on podcasts, when it is becoming increasingly obvious that the medium is growing in popularity very quickly.

There are a lot of amazing media outlets all around the region that have a great readership and are also influential. Work with your public relations agency or team to find out which publications are relevant to you and why, rather than focusing on a very small pool, because you know them.
(Disclaimer: Terng Shing Chen is the Founder and CEO at Sync PR)

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