5 PR Commandments Every Startup Should Live By

Observe these basic and fundamental rules to avoid common PR sins.

Every small business wants it. Few get it.

I’m not referring to capital — although that, too, is very high on the priority list — but rather media coverage; headlines, news bytes and visibility.

Public relations (PR) is a key component to any small business marketing strategy. However, the practice of strategically communicating to build mutually beneficial relationships between your organization and your public can often be elusive.

Over the years, I’ve developed a unique perspective on PR given a) I am a serial entrepreneur that has benefited from good PR b) I know quite a few PR professionals and c) I own a startup and small business magazine, which puts me on the receiving end of, both, PR blunders and home runs.

Good PR efforts, whether DIY or delivered by a PR agency, will help you increase your company’s visibility and recognition on as many respected media platforms as possible. Long term, public relations is an investment in your brand and visibility resulting in recognition and a more favorable reputation.

According to PRSA.org, public relations can be broadly defined as:

  • Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
  • Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
  • Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
  • Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.


Avoid These PR Sins

PR is an effective marketing tool that can indirectly contribute to a company’s bottom line. Why? Because we all know that consumers like to associate and conduct business with brands they know and trust. So, if you’re ready to fine tune your PR activities there are a few rules for the road you should keep in mind.

Observe these basic and fundamental rules to avoid common PR sins.

Thou shalt not:


  1. Mistake public relations for advertising.

    Advertising is designed to sell a product or service, while PR is focused on shaping your image and building awareness. Never communicate with editors, journalists or reporters using a sales-oriented message. Instead, consider how your company can contribute to the success of their specific platform.

  2. Subscribe members of the media to company newsletters.

    Media outlets, large and small, are inundated with communications on a daily basis. The media community, in particular, is highly sensitive to “spammy” emails. While pitching is common practice, and acceptable, subscribing an editor to your email marketing list to announce your next sale — is not! In fact, unless a media contact requests or shares permission to be added to your company’s general newsletter — don’t do it.

    Lightspan Digital founder Mana Ionescu suggests, “These days we equate email spam to emailing too much, too often, without permission, unsolicited email or even emailing off topic.” According to the CAN-SPAM Act, “Once someones says ‘don’t email me,’ you can’t email them any more. Period. Most email service providers will automatically block [an] account from being re-added to your email list.”


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