You’ve no doubt heard of the benefits of “having a story.” People like narratives, and if you want to succeed, someone is going to have to hear about you, and they’re going to have to tell someone else about you afterward. Doing something well is the best way to make this happen, but having a compelling, understandable story relating who you are and what you do is a close second. This is where PR comes in. PR folks—if they’re good at what they do—are able to communicate your message in a way that people can understand and that makes them want to listen. That includes investors, potential hires, and customers or users.
The PR industry is split into two camps: in-house PR and PR agencies. A PR agency is a firm that you hire to manage your PR for you. In-house PR, which is what we’re talking about, means that you handle your PR from within your own company. There’s no obvious answer to the question of which of these options you should prefer. However, there are a few things worth bearing in mind:
- The most obvious of all: keeping things in-house is probably cheaper. If you are managing your own PR, or one of your few employees is, it’s likely to cost you less than hiring a firm would.
- What you miss out on in experience, you make up for in enthusiasm. The person running your PR for you might not be a PR-guru, but they have an advantage even over seasoned PR vets: they believe—or they ought to—wholeheartedly in whatever it is you deliver. That enthusiasm, if channeled properly, is as effective a PR tool as you could hope for.
- You’re a startup, you might not even know what your message is. This swings both ways, as a good PR agency can help you arrive at a really good way to communicate what you or your product does—but, really, as your ideas change and as what you want to stress about your company or product changes, it can be nice to have someone in-house, on the ground, who is keeping up with this evolution in real time. You don’t want to have to send a dozen emails a week to your PR agency telling them, Wait, this is actually what we’re all about!
Don't rush into a relationship with a PR agency because you think you need it or think it will legitimize you. Many companies before you have succeeded without a PR firm, and plenty of companies with firms have failed to go anywhere. As with every other decision you’re going to make for your company, weigh the options carefully and make the choice that is appropriate for you and your stage of development.