Thinking of Using a PR Agency?

Thinking of using PR

You’ve launched your product, won your first customers, incorporated their feedback, paused for breath (yeah, right) and are at the point where you need to institutionalise this sales (and marketing) thing so you can get back to building the product out.

You need to get your message out there, far and wide. Let the world know what your product can do for them/the planet, whatever it might be. Sound like you?

Then what you need is a PR agency, right? Wrong. Certainly for our target market companies, a PR Agency is exactly what you don’t need at this point and here’s why…

Firstly, what does a PR Agency do? They help you get your message out there – into trade press (mainly online but some print media), national press (if you’re extremely lucky and relevant) as well as through social channels. Good agencies will work with you to help develop your message and then work with their network of journalists to place articles. Less good ones will draft a press release for you and push it out to the PR wire and hope someone picks it up.

For context on this article, we’ve worked with three PR agencies over the past ten years, two in the US, one in the UK and each with a different tech company. The first was ten years ago and worked extremely well, the last was in 2017/18 and was completely unsuccessful. The middle one was in 2015/16 was unsuccessful but was the same PR agency as we’d initially used.

So what changed? The world did. The nice ordered world of ten years ago where publications flourished, had loyal readerships, made money (which meant they had journalists)…that’s all gone.

This is not say that PR is dead (completely). It definitely can complement established marketing/lead generation strategies but for larger companies than those in our target market. One of your characteristics is a limited marketing budget and a need to establish lead generation strategies that work – which means being able to measure performance.

And that’s the first reason a PR agency is not a good match for you – you don’t have the ability to measure performance. In general, a PR agency will be trying to establish you as a thought leader in your niche (which is a good thing) but the problem is that the placed article is a) not going to be talking about your product/solution, and b) isn’t going to have a clickable link back to your site/landing page (the publication generally won’t allow this).

This then means you’ll have spent money with the agency, got an article published but have no clue as to the return you’re getting in terms of leads. If it’s not generating leads then [for you] what’s the point? If you can’t measure the return what’s the point? This is vanity marketing – seeing your photo, name, brand in an article – tick that box, you’ve done something.

The second reason why a PR agency is not good for our target market is that you’re losing the ability to control/own the conversation. You agree some content with the agency and they try to influence the [beleaguered] journalist but what actually gets printed is beyond your control.

The third reason is that you’re paying for content that’s going into a publication (online or print) which is more than likely an ‘interest’ publication for the reader – meaning they’re not necessarily actively looking for a solution to a problem if/when they see your article. This is what we call ‘interrupt’ advertising.

With a limited budget, why would you not focus your spend on people who are actively looking for a solution? When you’ve addressed all of those people you can move on to educating the rest of the world.

Taking ownership of your communications using content marketing is a much more productive (and measurable) way to invest your limited marketing budget and repeatably generate the leads to grow your business. You can read more on this on our post on B2B digital marketing.

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