Karen E. Klein, who doles out small business advice on behalf of the Los Angeles Times, recently received the following question from a woman designing her own line of jewelry: “Should I try to get an agent or PR firm?”
“What you need is a distribution channel,” answered Ms. Klein. In other words, first things first.
Copywriters often face a similar situation. Clients — especially startups — want to jump the gun on PR because they believe media attention automatically translates into sales. It doesn’t. Plenty of companies have gone belly up despite churning out press releases and journalist pitches. They would have been better off putting their energy into marketing and sales.
Take our fledgling jewelry designer. Unless her story is a jaw-dropper (e.g., she’s blind and secretly designing Lady Gaga’s jewelry from a prison cell) a PR firm probably doesn’t have much to leverage or work with to win media attention. And while an agent might be of some use to her, an experienced sales representative would be far more helpful. Bottom line, she should wait until her business is more firmly established to invest in an agent or PR firm.
When I’m asked to write press releases, media alerts and journalist pitches for startups or clients looking to generate sales, I try to gently remind them that PR sometimes helps boost sales but it’s not guaranteed. And PR is definitely not a substitute for basic marketing initiatives.
In other words, copywriters … first things first. Work with your clients to craft stellar marketing collateral. Then help them shoot for the stars with PR.