Do Startups Really Need PR?

Last week a story came out that gave reasons why you shouldn't hire a PR company for your startup.

Now I am pretty open about my industry and do agree with a number of the reasons on this list, but, to be honest, it's more about you understanding PR, how and why it works and finding the right long-term partner for your startup. Sadly, I have seen too many people have a bad experience with a PR person simply because they lacked the understanding of public relations. My goal is to solve that. Finding the right partner is key. After all, this is your money and dream.

Here are some characteristics to consider before, or during, your search to bring a pro onto your team:

• Journalism degree
• Worked in media
• Experience in corporate PR and small businesses
• Proven growth for clients
• Solid references
• Well spoken, confident
• Recent wins, portfolio or press kit examples
• Someone who is flexible with creating a plan that makes you happy
• Someone who wants your business long-term, not your money in the short-term
• Someone you like and always go with your gut

Red flags:

• Someone who makes guarantees
• Someone who attempts to razzle-dazzle you
• Someone who is "salesy" and overly aggressive
• If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

And the biggest red flag: $12,000 a month. No. You need to find someone willing to work within your budget to provide a very targeted strategy which will expand as your business does. Sure, if you want an aggressive, national campaign with a seasoned professional who "gets it" rather than an inexperienced college grad, you will be looking at something around that.

However, starting out and wanting a few quick hits to boost business should not require an additional investor to cover the cost. Look for someone who wants to be on your team and is committed to sticking with the company as it grows. This means they are actually willing to go above and beyond and not nickel and dime you along the way.

Jennifer Fortney is president of Cascade Communications, a boutique virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago focusing on small business and startups. In her 15+ year career she has worked with some of the top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country. A journalism major with music minor from The University of Kansas, she is also the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago and founder of @MyStorySource live media pitch feed on Twitter and Facebook. @SmallBizPRXpert

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