Why Startups and PR Firms Are A Good Match

Since Change Communications is based in San Francisco, a.k.a the heart of startup land, it shouldn’t be any surprise that we say startup companies and public relations agencies are a great example of a compatible working relationship. There are several reasons why this is a symbiotic team-up.

Why Start Ups Need A Good PR Firm

For startups, having the back up of an experienced PR agency or stellar solo practitioner allows them to have: a leg up in launching their brand, advice in how to position their company to the media, and credibility from a third party spokesperson. Although it’s absolutely true that PR isn’t for every startup and it can be a mistake to get PR too early in your company’s growth, don’t discount PR based on the myths you may have heard. CNBC posted an excellent article dispelling a few of those myths that is worth a read.

When startups are at a strategic growth point, they definitely need a public relations plan on what angle to pitch their company or brand to key reporters, funding news, and product launch. A seasoned PR professional will take the time to figure out how a startup’s product or service can stand out compared to the competition, why the founders are so passionate about their start up, and the best angle to highlight a start up to media.

Mark Cuban’s statement in Entrepreneur.com about never hiring a PR firm only applies if a startup has a sound plan for marketing/PR, team members who already know how to do media outreach, and a great deal of patience and luck. Good publicity happens after a slow build up and as Peter Himler says in his great article PR for Start Ups Deconstructed:“Who stands a better chance of gaining traction: an unrecognized founder of an unbranded and untested company or the PR person with whom the reporter has worked before?”

Why Start Ups Are Attractive To PR

For PR firms, startups have come a long way since the dot com bubble burst. Today, they are more likely to have thorough business plans and better prospects for making a profit, since the majority of start-ups seek financial backing from VCs. Also, working with startups can be more stimulating than an established, monolithic corporate giant. Startups are more receptive to ideas, willing to take exciting risks, have a broader array of tasks for their PR firm, and best of all, you have the opportunity to watch the growth that your startup client will receive from their publicity. Who knows? You might end up representing the next Pinterest or Instagram.

How To Maintain A Good Working Relationship

In order to maintain a good working relationship with each other, startups should clearly relate to their PR contacts what kind of media focus they’d like and have a long-term outlook on publicity. Having a write up about your startup in several media outlets is worth more than flashy advertising.  On the other hand, PR firms should have good communication with the startup’s senior management (so that a clear PR strategy can be established) and also be acceptable to sudden change (a company ‘sdirection can change on the turn of a dime at the completion of a successful PR campaign).

There’s a reason why we love startup clients. And with strong communication, established and clear goals, and a willingness to re-strategize, there’s no reason a startup can’t love their PR firm, too.

By Courtney Lee

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The Thriving Bay Area PR Scene

Golden Gate Bridge photo by Sasha Zvereva
Golden Gate Bridge photo by Sasha Zvereva

Los Angeles and New York City are both well known for being public relations magnets.  Most public relation firms in L.A. represent entertainment and sports public relations, while over on the East Coast, New York PR firms are generally talented in financial and consumer/lifestyle public relations.

So what about public relations closer to home, in the good ‘ole foggy Bay Area? Public relations agencies abound in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose, and usually specialize in healthcare, consumer, and tech PR disciplines. But why are these disciplines more common in the Bay Area?

Healthcare PR

The healthcare industry is generally always thriving. In the Bay Area, we are surrounded by non-profit health plan and hospital Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, biotechnology companies like Genentech in South San Francisco, and pharmaceutical companies like Bayer in Berkeley.

Although a lucrative industry, (add up in your head: doctor’s visits, cost of drugs/vitamins, emergency room/ICU stays, #of Baby Boomers in the Bay area and you can see why), they still need public relations to detract from the negative press the healthcare industry receives. Check out this scandal involving pharmaceutical giant Pfizer from earlier this year.

Tech PR

According to Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher, tech companies started to shift to public relations around twenty years ago as a more cost-effective alternative to advertising. Tech companies were spending 40% or more of their annual revenue on marketing. They realized that advertising was only 1/3 as effective as a news story about a company or product.

It’s pretty obvious to see the value of taking on tech PR in the Bay Area, considering that most tech companies are either in Silicon Valley or in San Francisco. South Bay and San Francisco are incubators for tech companies and tech start-ups. Search engine giant Google is in Mountain View, while frenemy consumer electronics behemoth Apple resides in nearby Cupertino. San Francisco is recognized as being the place to go for tech start-ups. It’s not uncommon to name drop the world’s biggest tech start ups in San Francisco-Twitter, Zynga, Yelp, Square all call the “The City By The Bay” home. What can we say? The Bay Area is a hot bed of creativity and innovation.

Consumer PR

Consumer PR has steadily made its way over to the Bay Area. After all, some of the world’s biggest consumer brands are in the Bay Area’s backyard: Gap Inc, Levi Strauss, Skyy Spirits, Del Monte Foods, and Visa.

You don’t have to go to New York City or Los Angeles for an exciting career in public relations.  Take a closer look at what’s going on around you in the Bay Area, and you’ll realize that public relations practitioners have more than enough interesting clients to fill their plate. It’s a pretty thriving scene for PR practitioners interested in a variety of industries.

By Courtney Lee





PR 101: 4 Things Every Public Relations Newbie Should Do If They Really Want A PR Career

PR newbies are like young, inexperienced Jedi who need a few good training lessons if they truly want to become a public relations “Jedi Knight.” Here are 4 public relations basics that every PR newbie should tackle if they want to master public relations.

1) Learn the basics of what you’re going to be doing

This is the #1 task you should start off with. Some of the main tasks of an entry-level public relations position are media monitoring, writing pitches and press releases, and doing tons of research. You can look up job descriptions of a “public relations intern” or “account coordinator” on Craigslist and LinkedIn to see what different companies want in their ideal candidate.

How good are your research and writing skills? Excellent research skills are going to be needed, since you’ll be creating media lists of outlets and reporters, and mining those same lists when a write up for a client is needed. Like the managing director of Change Communications says,” get to know the tech/consumer/business beat reporters for major outlets like Wall Street Journal or online blogs like TechCrunch.”

Press releases are generally news-oriented and informative, while pitches are more creative, persuasive, but still informative. Google press releases and pitches to get a sense of the type of writing are needed for both.

2) Research different working environments for PR:

What’s the difference in working environments at an agency versus a non-profit?

Agency environment: Working at an agency, you usually start off on the corporate ladder as either an intern or as an account coordinator (common at smaller public relations agencies). Generally, agencies hire interns and after the internship is over, decide if they want to hire them on full time. Public relations agencies can range from full-service global agencies with multiple practices (Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton, etc), to mid-sized boutique public relations firms that specialize in outreach to select industries: like technology, consumer, video game, legal, and entertainment public relations. All public relations firms exist to help enhance the marketing endeavors and to nurture a positive brand image of their clients. They do this by media relations: reaching out to reporters and bloggers of TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine outlets. Press releases about a company product or launch are sent out on wire services like PR Newswire or BusinessWire. Pros of agency life: security, fast track onto the public relations lifestyle, and easier career advancement. Cons: Rigid schedules with no ability to choose clients. For more information on agency environment: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/definition-boutique-pr-firm-19323.html

Non-profit: In a non-profit environment like (Red Cross, American Breast Cancer Society, Glide Foundation) public relations practitioners work very closely with their board of directors, to ensure that messaging is in alignment with their organization’s mission statement. Sometimes there may be only 1 or 2 people working in the non-profit’s public relations department, since not every non profit has a huge budget for public relations. As a PR newbie, you could gain experience working as a public relations volunteer –helping with press releases or doing social media outreach. PublicRelationsCares.Org matches up non-profit organizations with the skills and talents of students in college and public relations professionals. For more info on the program: http://www.goodcausecommunications.org/cms.php?id=109

3) What PR specialties does your area have?

Different metropolitan areas are well known to be meccas for certain types of public relations. In the San Francisco Bay Area, due to being neighbors to Silicon Valley, most public relations firms specialize in consumer and technology public relations. Los Angeles is where you’d want to go if you’re hoping to do entertainment, film, or sports public relations. Over on the East Coast- New York City’s expertise is in fashion, consumer, and healthcare PR.

4) Get Experience And Find a Mentor(s)

Hands-on learning as a public relations intern or volunteer is more valuable than just research alone. You’ll learn what goes into a press release, what a boilerplate is, and how to meet client expectations.

Definitely reach out to public relations veterans for their advice on what it takes to succeed in public relations. You could turn to your boss or to professionals from public relations associations like Public Relations Society of America. Go to different sources to get more detailed information on the different types of public relations practices out there. Every seasoned public relations professional knows what it’s like to start out in public relations, and are happy to share any advice and tips with younger, less experienced people just starting out.

By Courtney Lee

A Gallery of Rogues

Turn up your speakers, click “HD” and watch this game trailer for the hotly anticipated PC shooter, HAWKEN. Don’t tell us you’re not a gamer, we don’t care. Just watch the video.

How cool was that??

OK, we’ve got something even cooler. Check out the latest trailer. Makes you want to be a gamer, doesn’t it?

The high-impact visual effects from Rogues Gallery make these game trailers stand out in a way that few other videogame trailers do. The indie producers and developers of HAWKEN were smart enough to focus on cinema-worthy trailers and Rogues Gallery’s photo-real Computer Graphic make us drool for the game. We’re biased because we’re proud to work with Rogues Gallery, but we think their visual effects are stunning and we rarely see this level of integration of photo-real effects and live-action shots.

Rogues Gallery has also created impressive work for the likes of Nickelodeon, Beats by Dre and Toyota. They specialize in bringing focused, determined creative teams to create high quality effects to enhance films, commercials, game trailers and more on the kind of budget that doesn’t make you have to take out a second mortgage.

Go visit Rogues Gallery’s website for more of their impressive work while we watch this trailer for the hundredth time.