Friday, April 19, 2024
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PR is Not Marketing and You Can’t Outsource Marketing

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve read the discussion that is going on around PR and whether or not is necessary for a startup.  Here is a quick summary for you under the rock types:
Jason Calacanis says startups should fire their PR company.
Steve Rubel says says PR folks need to stop spamming journalists.
Michael Arrington says PR as a profession is broken.
PR folks fire back saying It’s not just about online, people.
Jeremiah Owyang also takes the opposing view and talks about how PR can help some startups.

I basically agree with everyone.  Yes, CEO’s can do more PR directly.  Yes, there is too much PR spam.  And, although generally I think hiring a PR firm doesn’t make sense for an early stage startup, I have seen value from working with a firm that has good relationships to help accelerate visibility when a company is growing really quickly.

However, I thought there was a dangerous bit of advice in Jeremiah’s piece when he talks about PR’s ability to refine communications.  Specifically:

“The entrepreneur without professional communications help may often yammer about how great their technology is, or spend time sharing his passions.  The entrepreneur who has professional communication help often focuses on business solutions, able to talk at the market level, and puts the value statement right up front.”

This is the most important job of a marketer in a startup!  If you run a startup and you can’t talk about business solutions, can’t discuss your market, don’t put value statements up front, you need to fire your head of marketing.  What the heck are they doing if they aren’t doing that?

Marketing’s job is to have a deep understanding of the customer and the market.  Marketing owns creating the story that tells what the value of the company’s solutions are to the market.  Don’t believe for a second that you can outsource that to a PR agency that has no deep knowledge of your customers or your market.



  1. Here’s a thought…start-ups are the firms that most need PR support. If I’m a big enterprise, of course I need PR guidance, but can’t I bring that expertise in-house (if I want) and hire talented teams to do this?
    For a start-up, the guy writing the software code is many times the marketing guy at night. I’ve seen my fair share of PhD engineers that are literally geniuses with technology, but don’t know the first thing about getting the word out properly. Being someone that can do both is a rare and valuable ability.

  2. Thank you for this post, especially the final part. Folks, PR does not necessarily = Marketing. PR is a subset of and answers to Marketing. Good businesses, especially startups, need both to work hand in hand in order to most effectively understand & facilitate the exchange with the market.


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