As a 20+ year public relations veteran, I have seen a lot in the way companies view themselves and the world in which they operate. Some have extraordinary products and services, but no clear vision of where they plan to take their company. Others have great vision, but lack the substantive innovation to create a real-time value proposition for stakeholders. I have seen companies grow from having just a founder and one employee, to more than 600 on staff. I have seen other companies implode (they had vision, albeit blurred, and no tangible product). Then there are those that nail it on all fronts.

I am often amazed at the vast discrepancy in one’s view of PR and the value it plays for a company. I began my career working for Fortune 500 corporate behemoths; companies whose marketing spend alone would dwarf that of 30 startups combined today. However, one thing that has always impressed me, and perhaps it speaks to the DNA of entrepreneurs, is the premium today’s class of startups put on public relations. The innovators with whom I work understand that PR can play a critical role in the launch, growth and ongoing success of their companies.

I was recently asked by an industry group to weigh in on the role of PR and provide rationale for why it matters. Not only does it matter, it’s essential.  Here are the seven truths about PR that I shared:


1. Establishes critical third party credibility

Unlike other forms of marketing that are paid, PR generates earned media coverage.  Feature story coverage in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, TechCrunch or other influential media outlets will help advance your business objectives. Not only does this allow you to create powerful awareness around your business, it triggers an ongoing interest in who you are and what you do.


2. Firmly positions your company as an industry leader

No matter what industry in which you operate, today’s market environments are highly cluttered. Good PR will help you establish a formalized communications framework and an ownable, compelling industry positioning. It’s what separates you from the competition and what makes good companies great ones.


3. Builds enduring, meaningful relationships with all your key stakeholders

No other business function is out there on your behalf, daily and on the front lines. PR works to connect your company with the right stakeholders, educate them on your business (and underscore why what you do matters) and build a compelling corporate narrative.


4. Helps drive sales/growth

Ask any sales head and they will often remark that PR serves as a great primer for their work. When a company is prominently positioned within an industry, and there are media results to back it up, the role of sales becomes a lot easier. Not to mention, great PR also creates an influx of inbound interest.


5. Protects and promotes your brand

You want PR to ensure you have a prominent seat at the table. This includes coverage and discussions with media, investors, industry influencers, policymakers, etc. And while the positive will greatly outweigh the negative, inevitably your business may face some trial or crisis. PR is what helps you think through challenges strategically, identify an issue before it becomes a serious problem, and successfully navigate them to closure.


6. Cements C-suite as thought leaders

Most CEOs want to be on CNBC. They also want their bylines and op-eds to run across mainstream media. Why? Because it allows them to weigh in on key industry movement and trends, and do so in a way that positions them (and the companies they represent) as leaders within their industry.


7. Nimble and cost effective

Public relations is undoubtedly one of the most nimble and cost effective marketing disciplines you can employ to drive your business forward. Being nimble allows you to adapt and adjust your campaign based on a myriad of factors: market conditions, product rollout changes, breaking company news, or just a refocus of strategy. Also, PR often represents a fraction of an overall marketing budget, yet consistently delivers one of the highest ROIs.    


It is important to note that PR is not for the faint of heart.  If you are unwilling to have your company heavily scrutinized, don’t bother. But if you are building a company, with a meaningful customer value proposition backed by real innovation, PR will help build your business.  It takes time, collaboration and like anything worthwhile in life, commitment.  


Jonathan Cutler, Agency Principal, JCMG

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