Does your startup need a PR agency?

If you like ambiguity, you’ll love my answer to the question, does your startup need a PR agency?

Ready for it?

Here it is:

I don’t know.


Really, I can’t say for certain what is right for you. I can and will tell you what my experience has been, and I will make a recommendation, but you have to decide for yourself.



It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you

A friend of mine who is a talented interior designer, Kimberly Ward, recommended an audio book to me, It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You.

I just started listening to it, but so far, the book’s message is pretty simple, yet important: you gotta get your message out there.



And you also need to know what differentiates you from the competition. And that differentiation needs to matter to people-so they will pay you for it.


You can hustle and get PR hits on your own

You can absolutely get exposure on your own. As the CEO of your biz, no one will be able to speak more credibly and passionately about what you do.

Here’s a slide from a deck I’m working on to find a sponsor for a campaign to fight homesickness in college freshmen:


PR Hits


Those are all major PR hits my business scored. And they were ALL accomplished by my hustle.  No silver bullet, just straight hustle, and luck.

Here’s an article in which I wrote about how I got featured on the TODAY Show and NPR. And here’s a recent article about how the CNET hit happened.

You can also use online tools like Just Reach Out to find journalists writing about certain topics. I actually used it and it works. It takes hustle, but you can have some success with the tool.


But consistency and momentum matter. And it’s hard, as one person, to keep getting relevant PR hits.

It just is.


Success working with an agency

I’ve worked with agencies in the past that were helpful in some ways, but didn’t get any meaningful national PR that helped my business’ sales. And they were not inexpensive.


I recently started working with a woman named, Catenya McHenry, of Orca Communications. Orca is great because they have a unique business model that is very startup friendly, but they are very particular about the companies with which they work.


Here’s a screen shot of the header from Orca’s home page, which shows their clients’ PR successes:


Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 1.18.22 PM


I bet that got your attention. It got mine when I was checking them out-even though I’m very skeptical.

These past two months working with Catenya have been great; she got WeMontage placement on 3 large, city morning shows, a host of relevant blogs, and a hit yesterday in a photography pub, Shutterbug magazine.


Catenya also does a lifestyle TV segment in Birmingham, AL. Here she is in action repping my brand:



We have a few pending hits at major newspapers and magazines thanks to her efforts, and just this morning, we got a nice placement in Austin’s main paper, The Austin American Statesman, which will run in print this weekend.

KAPOW! Austin is a GREAT city and this should be good for my business.


Catenya also got me in a mother’s day segment on Good Morning America, but they kicked me out once they saw I was already on the TODAY Show.



My recommendation

It’s important to know what differentiates your biz, and make sure you’re good at whatever that is.

And it’s important to stay top of mind with customers by getting proper exposure, which you can do on your own, but is REALLY hard.

Finding a PR partner that hustles like you and delivers value is, well, invaluable.


If you can afford it, I recommend hustling on your own and hiring an agency. For me, it’s all PR and attention-getting hands on deck!


How have you been able to get PR for your business? Has it been all you, all an agency, or both?


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Feature image credit: Niuton may PR PR

4 thoughts on “Does your startup need a PR agency?

  1. I agree James, success is really driven by constantly getting your name out there… In the year and a half I’ve been running The PopLyfe Shop, I’ve definitely seen the difference between the times I’m advertising or promoting and when I’m just passive or hibernating

    1. Sean, your brand has great potential. And you rep’ it in a way no one else can.

      I expect it will continue to improve as you continue to focus on it.

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