Does your company really need a PR firm? Doing a simple Google search brings up numerous articles on both sides of the question. Even my colleagues and I agree that sometimes the answer is “no.”
Don’t get me wrong: Public relations is essential to the growth of a business, and at RH Strategic, we believe in it wholeheartedly. But the stage of your business should determine the level of PR you need. For a two-person startup freshly injected with funding, a PR firm might not be the best use of capital.
I recently read about a new software program
, “PR in a box.” Essentially, businesses pay a per-use fee and in return can use a pitch development tool to draft an email and get a list of addresses pulled from a media database.
If you are pushing out a press release on your latest investor, this approach will work with a small budget, give you a record of the announcement, and spread the news far and wide. All you need is a writer to draft the release.
However, there are a lot of innovative companies out there competing for journalists’ attention. To get more than just a mention of your company’s latest capital injection takes a bit more work and strategic thinking, which an algorithm just can’t provide.
In a previous blog post
, a colleague discussed the idea of a “mail merge pitch,” which “provides the essential toolset for maximum audience reach with minimal input. But with this ease comes major drawbacks.”
Reporters want to know that you read their content and that what you are sending them is thoughtful and, most important, relevant to what they cover. This type of insight cannot be guaranteed when using a pitch wizard tool.
Reporters are constantly changing beats, outlets, and roles. A software tool evaluating the scope of a reporter’s recent coverage might not accurately tell you whether he or she has moved on from health care to cover the latest in cyber security. This is where a PR firm comes in handy.
Once a business has moved on from solely pushing out press releases to establishing its position and voice in the industry, a PR firm is worth the investment. The value a firm brings lies in the unique talents of its people: a social media expert, someone who shines in content development, and a strategic thinker with endless good ideas.
This team can be the sounding board when testing your corporate messaging, the voice of reason when your IT guy urges management to push out a press release for each weekly software update, and the glue behind your coordinated product launch comprising media briefings, road-tour stops, press release distribution, and momentary losses of sanity.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
So when you are contemplating your communication strategy, be sure to know what stage your company is in and what your PR goals are. It’s OK to go with PR in a box, but know that when it comes to gaining real traction and building a voice in the marketplace, there is something to be said about a human touch.
Kelli Sheppard is an account executive with public relations firm Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications. A version of this story originally appeared on the company's blog.