Can the average entrepreneur just starting a new enterprise serve virtually every business function — CEO, bookkeeper, secretary and PR person? The president of a Chicago-based boutique PR firm seems to think so.
In a recent column, she posits that DIY PR makes good business sense for a young start-up company. Money is likely tight, so handle the job yourself and reduce costs, she tells entrepreneurs. She is right about immediate money savings, but I have serious questions about the longer-term results.
Granted, I’m in the PR business and like to think that most of my industry colleagues and I can do a much better job than someone not trained to handle the media and other aspects of the job.
The column’s author suggests that the entrepreneur can better target his or her market than a PR firm that simply blasts press releases to a multitude of editors and bloggers. Maybe that’s the way her firm handles PR, but that’s not the norm for a professional, experienced agency.
Rather than approach 500 potential media outlets, she counsels entrepreneurs to spend time targeting the top 10 to 25. That’s good advice and something any reputable PR firm would do as well.
Once targets are identified, she suggests the entrepreneur take just 2-3 hours a week to develop a media list, write a press release, pitch the media and follow up. For someone not trained in PR to accomplish that much in three hours would be virtually impossible. Most PR professionals would be hard pressed to condense that much work into such a short time.
Then when the media comes calling, she tells the entrepreneur to drop everything to meet the reporters’ schedules. Forget about that meeting with your investors for the next round of capital.
In my 20+ career, I’ve worked with a number of start-ups and have been willing to work for less with the idea that the retainer will grow as I help the business mature and develop. There are many other PR professionals willing to do the same. I have more than one story where my partner and I have helped a start-up business make contacts with more and bigger investors because of a favorable article in a local newspaper, TV station or trade journal. I think we more than earned our money.
The idea that PR can be handled by anyone is ridiculous. The vast majority of PR people are trained professionals that can bring about results — most often for a reasonable fee. Would our Chicago PR person also suggest that an entrepreneur serve as his or her own DIY attorney or tax accountant?
I doubt it. It’s time that PR practitioners stand up and demand to be treated with the same dignity and respect as other trained professional service providers. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard and proven ourselves time and again. We allow our clients to do what they do best — run their businesses without having to worry about PR.
Ideas such as DIY PR are great for the PTA. Let’s keep them there.