Our search for the perfect PR firm…

February 14, 2007

Seth and I have been discussing our marketing plan for OnCard Marketing and iBakeSale over the next few months. After talking with friends, advisers, and other entrepreneurs, we’ve come to the conclusion that we should look into PR (public relations) as a way to get the word out there about our first consumer rewards program, iBakeSale (currently in final stages of development). We simply cannot afford more expensive marketing and advertising options given our tight budget and bootstrapping mentality. With PR, we can hope to manage our finances with a monthly retainer fee and with enough guidance, formulate a PR strategy that will get us press in various consumer publications, both on-line and off-line, to tell consumers about iBakeSale and encourage them to sign up for the program.

Similar to our predicament when beginning our search for a law firm a few months back, I found ourselves without a list of contacts in the PR field. So it was back to being resourceful, contacting other entrepreneurs who had used PR firms in the past and using a website called O’Dwyers, which is a huge listing of PR firms by concentration (i.e. tech, health care, industrial, consumer packaged goods, etc.). I sent about 20 emails out to the cold contacts and to the warm contacts provided to me by my fellow entrepreneurs. I have already received 10 responses back and have phone calls scheduled with 7 for next week. I’m hoping to wrap this up in the next 4 weeks, solicit proposals, meet the firms in-person with Seth, and then make a decision with Seth and move on to the next project. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Bottom Line: As far as I’ve heard, there is no better option than PR as a primary marketing strategy for a start-up. If most start-ups are like ours (which I assume is the case), they don’t have the money for direct mail, internet marketing and the like. You need to be resourceful and get the word out cheaply. PR will hopefully take care of that for us. Use referrals from other friends/entrepreneurs who have worked with specific PR firms in the past. A personal referral can go a long way. O’Dwyers is also a great resource in case you don’t know where to start. Ideally, you want to meet with 3-5 firms, get proposals and see what their proposed budget is. For an early stage company, expect to spend anywhere from $6k to $10k per month. I know it seems like a lot, but it’s a lot cheaper than the alternatives, and some well-funded start-ups spend over $20k per month on PR. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. More on how to select a PR firm in a follow-up post…

JT

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