The PR Firm Debate- Should Startups Hire One or Not?Dear Mark Cuban,

I respect the heck out of you. I normally agree with most things you say and do. But this time? This time, you’re wrong.

Much love,

Gini

Never Hire a PR Firm

He recently wrote, “Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Startups” for Entrepreneur, and I agree with nearly everything he said.

Things such as, “Keep your organizational chart flat,” “sales cure all, “no offices,” and “hire people who will love working there.”

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But his 11th rule is, “Never hire a PR firm.”

This is what he says.

A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.

I’m actually a believer in the chief executive holding the relationships with the journalists that can add credibility to his or her business…so I don’t totally disagree with what this statement.

And I agree it’s fairly easy for you to call, email, or tweet the journalists and bloggers you’re already reading, surfing, and watching. You should contact them.

But, let’s say – hypothetically speaking, of course – you have 10 media outlets that are interested in covering your organization. And they all want an interview, additional information, photos, bios, and more within the next 48 hours.

Your time suddenly went from growing an organization, being the chief sales person, creating the process and structure for scalability, and coaching and mentoring your team…to being a “PR flack.”

Where an Entrepreneur Should Spend Time

When I first started Arment Dietrich, I did everything. Literally.

Bills would come in and I entered them into QuickBooks. I guessed at how to categorize them (which wasn’t always right). I paid bills and manually cut payroll.

Sure, I can do all of those things and the place won’t burn down, but I learned very quickly it wasn’t the best use of my time and it was far less expensive to pay someone who had that expertise to do it.

I wanted to be able to spend my time with clients and new business prospects so I could grow the agency. I didn’t want to spend my time entering bills and cutting checks, answering the phones, or buying office supplies.

Likewise, you can do your own media relations. It’s not hard. It’s certainly not rocket science. No one will die if you screw it up. It’s all about building relationships and, if you’re growing an organization, it’s likely you’re pretty darn good at it.

But is that where you want to spend your time?

Always Hire a PR Firm

Look at it this way: A PR firm will not only help you manage the relationships, he or she will also help you determine what is newsworthy – and what is not, build a multi-media kit, do the follow-ups, make sure the story runs (and get a copy of it), talk to the journalist if anything is wrong – and get a retraction printed, provide additional information as the story is being created, and track the individual pieces’ effectiveness to your overall business goals.

And, if you’ve hired a firm that has capability beyond media relations, they will also know how to help you create content, motivate people to comment and share it, help you build community, generate qualified leads, and design the metrics for tracking to results.

So, you tell me, would you rather spend your time growing your business and getting a return for your investors…or manage the media relationships that are likely to come as you begin to succeed?

(Thanks to Sean McGinnis for the article find.)