Does your company NEED a PR firm? Doing a simple Google search brings up numerous articles on both sides of the question. And even we 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, we believe in it wholeheartedly. But the stage of your business will determine the level of PR you need. For a two-person startup freshly injected with Series A funding, a PR firm may 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 RH blog post we 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, that what you are sending them is thoughtful and, most importantly, 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 is going to have a hard time evaluating the full scope of a reporter’s recent coverage and tell you if they have moved on from healthcare 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 lays in the unique talents of its people: a social media guru, 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 of media briefings, road-tour stops, press release distribution and momentary losses of sanity.
So when you are contemplating your communications 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.
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What is your experience with PR-in-a-box software? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog. We’d love to hear from fellow PR professionals and journalists alike.
RH Strategic is the PR firm for a hyper-connected world, delivering integrated media, social & digital strategies for technology, healthcare, and public sector markets.