I've long held the opinion that a PR firm is one of the sound, early stage, marketing investments a company can make but that such a firm has to excel at traditional PR as well as managing speaking opportunities and social marketing.
That said, such firms are hard to come by and expensive.
What has worked for you? When do you typically bring in a firm and have you found any that meet those series of expectations?
Most of the entrepreneurs that I've talked to that have hired a PR firm were not thrilled with the results.
That's not a criticism of PR firms in general, but of the situation. It might be that expectations were unreasonable or that these startups hired a PR firm too early.
In general, I advise against hiring a PR firm as I think the funds can be allocated better to other activities that will generate inbound interest.
I employed a PR firm for my start-up (we are a small bootstrapped SaaS company is a very tightly controlled niche). I was about 50% happy with the work.. it did get us some more local publicity and articles in a few trade journals, but the work the PR person did I feel like could have been just as easily done by me or one of my employees.
So, I'm not sure? Maybe the right PR firm would have done a better job. In the end, it didn't break the bank and was an interesting experience. I think it was worth the risk, but didn't quite pay off for us.
I'm thinking if we do another push for this, I'll just have someone internally doing the work because it is pretty simple:
No magic to it as far as I could see? Maybe you are looking for some more 'full service' though.
Here's a good advice I heard: it's time to hire a PR agency when journalists call you and it's distracting you from your job as CEO. Not before.
Hiring a PR agency for a new startup is tempting: you think that it's the magic bullet that will get you out of your initial hole. More likely, it means you are not media-savvy yet, so go out and learn and meet the press and community.
I haven't used a firm yet but this article might be helpful. I'm following up on it myself. http://www.bnet.com/blog/startup-pr/three-keys-to-laying-a-strong-pr-foundation/159
A few years ago I paid a PR marketing firms to get news releases out on a product launch and I was happy to see roughly a 1200% jump in daily web site hits. A few days later I analysed the web server logs and found that 90% of hits came a popular discussion web site, I think it was reddit, but would have to check. Someone had jazzed up the news release headline somewhat and re-posted. So the next time we came to launch we just went straight to that site and posted a similarly excitable sounding headtime and got the same effect, for free. The trick is, knowing these sites for your industry.
There are many avenues for PR, and if you have a big enough idea, PR will come by itself.
What I did at Blueseed was to search each major publication for articles on topics that we addressed (startup visa, skilled immigration, seasteading), and contact the authors on LinkedIn about doing a followup story including us.
This sort of cold-call warm-lead approach got us press in ArcticStartup and Huffington Post for instance, and no press in others.
As always, keep offering value to your target audience (cool stories to journalists), and success will follow.