Answers: Five Things a Startup CEO Should Know Before Hiring a PR Agency

Answers is a new regular feature where the DJA team shares its insight on key questions facing the B2B technology community.

Hiring a PR agency is a significant move for a tech startup. But when to hire a firm is different for every company. Here are five questions a startup exec should ask when timing a PR agency hire / launch:

Do you have news? This can include a round of financing, naming of a CEO or the beta or commercial launch of a new product or service.  Sounds obvious, maybe, but there’s a proviso…

When does the product ship? Sure, you can go public as soon as you have news but that may not be a great idea if your product doesn’t ship for a few months, letting the market excitement die down. The ideal timing of a PR agency hire / campaign corresponds to your product ship date minus the average customer buying time. Thus, if you are web service or an app, your product should be available at launch.  If your product is for IT or telecom market, then you can launch weeks or months beforehand, generating leads, web traffic and other marketing air cover for sales meetings.

What’s the competition doing? Most times if a competitor gets the jump on you, then that moves up the PR timeline.  If their new product is revolutionary, then it not only messes up timing, but can also trigger a rethinking of messaging.  But it’s not always bad.  Sometimes a competing vendor can validate your idea and if you are better then you can draft on their marketing efforts.

Can you pay for it? Maybe you expected this one given the source, but it’s important to have the cash for the ongoing campaign.  Sometimes you can pay in stock, but its rare to find an agency that will take all stock.

What’s next? PR builds on itself, so continuity is a good thing.  Are there new products, partnerships, customers or applications that you can use for follow on news?  A yearlong calendar of news announcements, tradeshow speaking events, awards and other news items means ongoing visibility and a maximizing of your investment.

The bottom line: once you have your news, financing and product plans finalized, then you have the information you need to consider the right timing to hire your PR agency.  Good luck and be bold!

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