January 31, 2017 Piyal Banerjee- India Lead for Step Up writes about ‘When Should A Startup Begin Its Public Relations Journey’ Constant flow of information, multiple formats of media, thousands of startups mushrooming in a short span of time—in this dizzy environment, startups need the right communication to help them catch eyeballs and stand apart. With reports stating that 40% of startups are shutting shop and not many others reaching the heights of success, one area that bears scrutiny is the lack of communication. If a company isn’t known for what it does, all its efforts are in vain. While it is known and accepted that a well-established company investing in a sustained public relations (PR) effort bears fruits in terms of high value and ROI, investing in PR for a startup becomes even more essential. The Indian startup landscape is cluttered and the media is spoilt for choice. A startup needs to be built right from the ground up and it requires a deeper understanding with the right messaging to highlight the brand ideology and concept. With a strategic plan put into play, PR not only helps to create awareness and visibility for the brand, but also helps attract talent that is a perfect fit and most importantly with rounds of funding. The question then is what is the right time for a startup to get started on public relations? Well, for that, the startup must answer some more questions. Do I Understand What PR Is? Most startup founders don’t understand the difference between advertising and public relations. They consider PR to be a low-budget alternative to advertising. They understand PR in terms of AVEs (advertising value equivalent). AVE refers to the cost of buying the space taken up by a particular article had the article been an advertisement. To reap the best benefits of a startup’s PR engagement, it is imperative to understand what PR is and understand that its outcome is starkly different from that of advertising. PR builds sustained relationships and connects to the right circle of influencers. It carves out a solid reputation with the public by integrating the key brand messages and mapping the right opportunities to grasp. Who Am I Speaking To? It is necessary to understand the stage your business has reached, what the business requirements are and the ideal PR strategy to get the correct message across. To get the right message across, a startup must first figure who its audience is in terms of investors, partners and customers and its objective. What Is My Story? Most often than not, startups come to PR agencies when their product is still lying on the white board, and not physically ready. Infact, a communications team can act as a partner in building this product. However, when the product isn’t ready it becomes very difficult to create a buzz around the product. The media isn’t interested to write about a company that is still in its initial stage. For a journalist to give you a chance to tell your story, the soft launch should have taken place and a basic customer base should be set. The startup should be in a position to talk about the numbers and statistics along with facts about how the product is performing in the market. The product should be unique and should solve an identified problem. There should be a series of announcements lined up such as, funding, major corporate announcement, launch etc. Do I Have The Time To Invest In Media? A startup should always consider PR as a long-term investment. Media engagement requires investment of time to build a sustained image that potential customers, employees and other stakeholders can place their trust in. It is important to create a niche for themselves for the startup. It is also important to showcase the spokesperson as a thought leader in the designated space. The startup and the PR agency work together as a team to create the right amount of noise in the media. It is a continuous process which requires time from both the entities. It can be termed as a roller-coaster ride that requires speed and a whole lot of enthusiasm to produce the best results together.