Mark Suster’s “The Silent Benefits of PR” should be required reading for both tech PR firms and their clients. It got me thinking about the unique aspects of the client-agency dynamic when the client is a startup company. What’s most interesting about Suster’s post is that of seven benefits of a strategic PR program that he outlines, customer acquisition is dead last. That’s right, last. The ironic truth is that, while early-stage clients often bring on PR agencies to help promote a product or service, the “silent” benefits, from staff morale to visibility among VCs, may be even more powerful.
In a similar way, working with early-stage clients can be beneficial for a PR team, and not just for the obvious reasons that they can be young and cool. Here are the ways in which an agency team can find it rewarding.
You can make a real impact. I started my career working with packaged goods companies where the PR program was a subset of marketing or a stepchild to an ad campaign. Big-brand PR was exciting, but the glamor sometimes faded into frustration. In the world of technology startups, by contrast, PR often leads. The PR strategy drives how the company is positioned to employees, investors, and customers, and those who influence them. The upshot is you feel like a full partner in the growth and success of the company.
You deal with the CEO. It’s fascinating to work with entrepreneurs, because they’re often brilliant, restless, and driven individuals, and that can be inspiring (as well as exhausting.) But more importantly, things get done. There aren’t typically layers of management, a bureaucracy to work through, or endless meetings before a decision is taken. Green means go.
You’re accountable. The green light also means that you’re responsible, unlike at companies where decisions are made by committee, or the PR program is more directly tied to a marketing campaign or sponsorship. If the funding announcement falls short, the launch flops, or the speech fails, your reputation is on the line. This type of pressure isn’t always comfortable, but it keeps you on your toes.
The bias is toward action. It may sound crazy, but there are many companies that don’t reward initiative or risk-taking in their partners. In fact, they may tacitly discourage it. For the typical startup, by contrast, there is no greater sin than standing still. Particularly in fast-changing sectors like adtech, HR tech or location-based marketing, there’s a culture of trial, risk-taking, and continuous innovation. That’s an environment that can be very empowering for agency team members.
You’re constantly learning. In tech PR in particular, things are changing quickly, and there is absolutely no opportunity to be bored or complacent. For a career agency person, there’s nothing better.