An Open Letter to Startups

Dear Startup,

Congratulations! You’ve begun your journey of entrepreneurship and you’re ready for the world to hear about your exciting new business. But how do you do that? The answer: strategic communications.

At this point, you’re probably thinking about who you can talk to to help kick-off your PR and marketing efforts, and you might just be thinking about your friendly communicators at The Agency. 

Surprise: this is where we tell you to stop before you get ahead of yourself. 

Sure, we’d be happy to sit down and have coffee with you, but after our initial fact-finding conversation, where we get to understand your product, business goals, funding, and outlook,  we’ll probably tell you that you’re not quite ready for an agency. Now, we know, Startup, that saying this might seem like a bad business practice. What kind of company discourages a potential client from hiring them? The thing is, we’ve been doing this for a long time, and we know when an agency will provide the greatest impact – and we don’t think you should sign up until you’re ready.

So what does ‘being ready’ even mean?

First: do you have stories to tell that are relevant to your audience (which is not the same thing as “fellow entrepreneurs”)? Did you receive a significant amount of funding? Launch a disruptive product? Make a notable hire? Experience explosive user/customer growth? These are a few storylines that might be of interest to journalists and your desired audience for that particular story. We like to challenge our startup clients and ask “so what?” because what’s exciting to you may not always be newsworthy, which is especially true in today’s competitive media landscape.

So ask yourself, do you have relevant and impactful stories that, when told, will help you achieve your business goals?

The next thing to consider is: do you have the resources? You need to invest time and money into your communications efforts. There are varying degrees of investment required depending on the route you choose: DIY, bring in an in-house professional, or hire an agency. Working with an agency is an investment, but one that can be worth it. PR is not always a short-term game with quick gains so make sure you have a sustainable budget for the industry experts you’ll bring on. You’ll need to give your agency the time, attention and information they’ll need to do their job well. At The Agency, we work as an extension of your team but we still need insight and input from you to make the magic happen. 

If you don’t think you can manage the investment for an agency, you still have options. Perhaps your next employee is a cross-hire that can allocate some of their time to communications and marketing? Maybe your communications needs are so limited that you can do them off the side of your desk?  Whichever route you choose, Startup, we want to make sure you’re ready for the realities of PR. . . . 

Because strategic communications take time and consistent effort. There is no such thing as a slam dunk in the media. There is no such thing as a guaranteed number of coverage pieces per month – if anyone’s telling you otherwise, that’s a red flag. Your name may not always be in the brightest lights, but if your communication efforts are strategic, your name will be in the lights that matter.

In the past, we have spoken with companies that weren’t ready for us. And you know what, Startup? We told them so. We advised them on their needs at the time, and let them know that we would jump on board whenever they were truly ready. 

So if you’re still not sure, let’s chat.

Good luck out there, Startup. We’re cheering for you!


Communication Strategies for Startups