Why the PR agency model doesn’t always deliver for new startups

PR agency founder Lisa Malyon has spent the last ten years providing PR services to startups, spanning all industries from recycling to transport, and childcare to FMCG.  

It’s like the film ‘28 days later’…..every year I watch startup zombies, collectively gravitating, arms stretched out in front of them, towards PR agencies, looking for that all-important, business-changing media coverage fix. Naturally, PR agencies welcome said zombies with open arms and promise them the moon on a stick. Why? Agencies have staff to pay and they love a challenge, but the reality is, the agency model, no matter how big or small, is not always designed to deliver what a new startup needs.

Startups or founders with little to no PR experience will only ever get 30-50% productivity out of a PR agency, and the reason for this is because a PR agency doesn’t have time to nurture and educate startups. In agency-land time is money. A hard-working press office takes time to deliver results, and every minute the agency staff spend educating their client, they’re not speaking to media, or negotiating that all-important brand collaboration.

Don’t get me wrong, I love PR agencies – I run one, and have done for the last seven years. The work I have seen many agencies do for start-ups is admirable, but let’s create positive change with a little education, to ensure that every startup gets 100% productivity when they hire an agency - it will be more motivating all round, and will mean that investors see the dividends they expect. I am taking a day a week out of agency life to educate startups - I have challenged myself to reach 500 startups before the end of the year.

If startups can learn the PR basics, there will come a time when hiring a PR agency is the best thing they can do - buying in creativity, ideas, talent and resource. Here is my list of the ‘top 5 things a startup must know before hiring an agency’:

  1. How a press office / media works
  2. What makes a good PR story
  3. How to talk about your brand / business
  4. What PR outcomes will really impact the bottom line
  5. How to identify PR-able content from within the business  

Do PR is a training company designed to give startups the skills they need to effectively hire a PR agency, or to do PR themselves.

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