Hey BostInnovation, Over Here

Again?  Really?  We’re having this conversation again?  Hey BostInnovation – here are some of the posts and people’s thoughts from September 2009 when a Web Innovators Group panel made a similar suggestion to entrepreneurs (i.e. do PR yourself.)  For the rest of you, BostInnovation is suggesting early stage startups try to do their own PR.

Here’s a quick list of the rebuttals from 2009 (some from others’ blogs and some from conversations):

  • Should entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves?  Would you suggest they try to handle their legal needs too?  Build the website?  The accounting?  When will they have the time to do it all?
  • PR is not just media relations.  Understand the difference.
  • You’ve got one chance to make a first impression, don’t blow it with a poorly communicated message.
  • Do reporters really want to be dealing direct with the “PR amateurs”? (I just saw a Scott Kirsner lament on a supposed PR professional who didn’t understand what an “exclusive” is – now dramatically increase the number of “misunderstandings” and you’ll have some pretty unhappy reporters.  Or conversely, some very happy ones who get all manner of early news and exclusives before the news really should be out. )
  • Should you be talking to the media at all?  If you are a very early stage company, probably not.  But if you are, make sure your actions support your goals (new hires, funding, partnerships, etc.)  This isn’t the time to announce your “not yet ready for prime time” website.  Don’t blow your chances at future coverage.
  • Differentiate between an agency (which has significant overhead) and working with an expert, professional or consultant who can guide you.
  • Understand that there is a new breed of communications professional.  One who understands social media, the power of blogs, uses analytics to measure results and provides access to integrated marketing programs.

Mass Innovation Nights, while a wonderful (you know I am biased) opportunity to connect with the local social media community, network and share information about your new product, is also, sadly, all too often a demonstration of what’s wrong with do-it-yourself.  Far too many companies go in without a thought to what they want to accomplish.  They can’t effectively communicate their message; they do themselves a disservice by presenting poorly; they don’t effectively capture appropriate leads.  Every entrepreneur should be prepared with an elevator pitch, a quick message and a goal on what they want to accomplish when given the (free) opportunity to do so.   (Note:  some MIN companies also do a wonderful job.  More often than not, I find they are being guided by a PR pro in what to do and what not to do.)

Everyone is trying to do so much themselves that they aren’t doing any one thing effectively.

And, I get the money issue.  (Am boot strapping a company too.)  Christine and I are seeing more and more entrepreneurs who just need guidance and we’re doing more and more in the way of marketing coaching.  We’re “on call” and an email away to answer questions.  Many entrepreneurs drop in on my weekly open office hours (Innovation Breakfast) to get advice and feedback on their marketing plans.  We’re available to work with anyone who wants to maximize their effectiveness for a reasonable price.  We work with the entrepreneur to set up goals and plans based on those goals.  In one case we’re supervising interns.  In another, we’re on-site a couple days a week.  We’re trying to create a model where entrepreneurs can get the guidance and expertise they need, and we can keep paying our mortgages.

Just a few weeks ago, one of my coaching clients was working on a press release.  All ready for distribution, he checked in with me just prior to pushing the button on nationwide wire distribution.   “Wait!  Save yourself $600 and just distribute it in Massachusetts.”

Entrepreneurs, you need to ask yourselves if you are doing the best thing for your company by completely shunning expert guidance and trying to do it all yourselves.  There are options.

2 thoughts on “Hey BostInnovation, Over Here

  1. I think it’s time to move past the question of whether it does or doesn’t make sense. Like most absolutes, it’s a red herring.

    I would love to see a focused, fair, balanced definition of the criteria for who probably needs a PR partner, and who probably doesn’t.

    Attributes of the entrepreneur, the stage of the business, the state of the market, the nature of the target audience are all fair game.

    Know anyone qualified to produce such a list?

    1. I agree, Mike. I thought we had explored all the angles in 2009 too and had moved on. This shouldn’t be any different than the conversation about hiring any other professional. Part of the issue (as you pointed out in 2009) is that most people equate PR with big expensive agencies — a model that doesn’t make sense when you are a start-up. But you can still afford quality counsel and support. I’ll see if I can rally the troops to put together a “when you need PR counsel” post and we’ll get it up here.

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