Recognition & Reputation: The Importance of Public Relations for Start-Ups

People who start companies have a new, innovative product, service, or idea that they want to show the public. They’re very good at what they do– experts in technology, design, or whatever it is that they’re offering. But not everyone can be an expert at everything, and even a tech whiz or design guru might not have the skill set required to get their company’s name into the public eye.

The importance of public relations for start-ups cannot be overstated, and should be considered high-priority. Running a start-up can be a risky endeavor, and every bit of public attention on the company is necessary in the early stages.

Of course, there are multiple ways a company can get attention; taking out advertisements is the most obvious. Depending on the context, this can be a useful tool in garnering public interest in the company’s products and services– but it’s important to consider how likely the average person is to pay attention to an advertisement.

On a daily basis, people are inundated with ads: billboards, bus stops, flyers, and posters while out and about; commercial breaks, YouTube pre-video ads, and sponsored content on social media while scrolling on their various devices. Unless one of these ads is especially attention-getting, it’s likely that it’s getting skipped, scrolled past, or just ignored.

Throughout the past few years, the importance of media literacy and fact-checking has become more commonplace, especially among younger generations. So not only are people likely to skip ads, they will most likely also be suspicious of articles they view as clickbait or otherwise unreliable.

This is where public relations firms come in. A public relations expert can help coach business owners on what kind of publicity to seek and where. They’ll also help to clarify the company’s mission statement, values, and brand, in order to develop a clear and consistent public image.

The ultimate purpose of PR, for start-ups and in general, is to build a relationship with the public, getting as many people as possible to be familiar with the products or services a business is offering. The more people who know and recognize a brand, the more customers it’s likely to have– people can’t spend their money somewhere they’ve never heard of, after all.

PR is also useful for developing a consistent and reliable image to help attract investors. There are many investors who are willing to work with promising start-ups, but they won’t hand money out to just anybody. A company who’s established a decent audience and customer base, and who can prove themselves to be reliable and sustainable, is much more likely to find investors than a company whose images, values, and goals are inconsistent or not clearly defined.

During the social and political turmoil of the past few years, people’s spending habits have changed. Among younger generations, people are increasingly likely to spend their money with a brand whose policies they agree with– more than 80% of millennials alone will choose to spend their money with brands who publicly align with their values.

These values include things like politics, climate change, and social issues. For example: word got out that a popular fast-food restaurant was donating proceeds to a certain organization. The effects of this discovery on consumers was immediately divisive, and while some people subsequently chose to stop spending money there, many others’ brand loyalty increased greatly.

Essentially, focusing on public relations during the early days of a start-up helps the public get familiar with a brand; it tells the story of who the company is and what they represent. This story accomplishes multiple things: it lets customers draw their own conclusions based on values and beliefs, it attracts investors, and it captures the attention of people who feel they’ve discovered a brand organically rather than through advertising.

Image: Eric McLean via Unsplash

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