Why startups can’t rely on PR for sales

If you have a startup, PR can be awesome for business.

I recently wrote about the importance of PR and suggested working with an agency and hustling on your own to get media exposure. That self-hustling piece is great because there is something magical about the way a founder or CEO can communicate her/his passion to a blogger or journalist. You’ll likely already have a decent idea of how to do this if you’ve ever had to present a startup pitch to potential investors. People who invest money into startups or take stock out in them are doing so because they believe in what the startup is and the potential it can bring, so they want to facilitate that in a monetary way. They will do research first in the Startup Unternehmen Aktien, also known as, startup company stocks, to see how they are fairing so far and take it from there.

I’ve written myriad times on this blog about how PR has saved my ass and generated sales for my biz, which helped me raise another round of capital.

But I never expected to score a HUGE media placement in a leading national lifestyle publication and have no results to show for it.

New media provides so many opportunities to get your name out there. Where some people may choose to Sync Salesforce and ActiveCampaign apps, in the hopes of creating a larger database of customers to reach out too, some may still use business cards as a way of networking and getting in touch with prospective clients. You can get your hands on some cheap business cards quickly online, but ultimately it’s how you use them as an effective tool that matters. Are the old methods still gold? Time will tell.

Why can’t startups rely on PR for sales?

The answer is simple: PR is unpredictable and unreliable.

PR is unpredictable because, well, you have no idea when a media outlet will choose to cover your business.

PR is unreliable because sometimes you will score an amazing media placement and it doesn’t help your business’ sales. Here’s an example.

My business recently got a great review on MarthaStewart.com. This beautiful photo was the feature image for the article titled, Liven Up Your Living Room with Photo Wallpaper:

Photo credit: Inbal More
Photo credit: Inbal More

To my surprise, this amazing media placement didn’t do anything for my sales. I’m not upset about this, just surprised.

Results from Martha Stewart PR hit

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 8.48.53 PM

The above graphic is a Google Analytics screen shot of data for the last month, due to the Martha Stewart article. Note there were only 33 visitors to my site from that article and no sales. If you told me a wonderful product review at MarthaStewart.com would result in no sales, I would’ve said you were crazy.

But there are many factors that go into how much exposure any PR gets for your business (e.g., timing, position of story, etc.), and much of it is out of your control.

Hence, the unreliability of PR.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

The physicist in this video says if no one is around to hear a tree fall, it only makes compression waves, it does not make a sound.

In the case of the Martha Stewart article, because it didn’t get promoted on Martha Stewart’s Facebook page, or tweeted by Martha herself, it didn’t make a sound (i.e., no one noticed and it didn’t impact my sales).

The Martha article is a nice feather in my cap, but my twins don’t eat feathers. Ha.

I AM thankful for the wonderful review at MarthaStewart.com. And it’s still possible the article will get discovered by consumers and drive traffic to my site that leads to sales.

And while you should absolutely be hustling to get PR for your startup, don’t rely on it exclusively to drive sales, and don’t be surprised or disappointed if you chop down a major PR “tree” and no one is around to hear it fall, so it doesn’t make a sound…or a difference to your company’s sales.

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Feature image credit: Steve Snodgrass No Sale Paid Out Shrine Mont Orkney Springs Virginia


  1. James, congrats on the review. May I share an observation as to what may be preventing some conversion/sales? As you know, the key is to promote the problem you’re solving or unique feature you offer AND overcome objections.

    IMO, the latter may be lacking. It’s clear what the product is, which is priority #1, but it’s important to quickly and easily address customers’ potential concerns, which for your product are: “It likely won’t work for my walls because they’re textured,” and “What kind of damage or residue will it leave when I wish to remove and change my decor?” And a potential third….”looks difficult to install.”

    Now that I go back and look further (something most users probably won’t do), I see you’ve offered the answers to residue and texture, but visitors have to scroll down & you have to hope they catch that one sentence. Similarly, the FAQ section only touches on the resticking issue, not residue or wall texture. I think making that a clear element, right “out of the gate,” would be beneficial. Have you done any independent “User Experience” testing with the website? Might help provide further insights.

    Happy to chat more if you’d like.

    Hope you are well.

    1. Thanks for the insights, Sandy. I’ve recently been exploring user experience testing. Those things “may” be issues, but I’m not certain that’s what’s affecting conversions. Without UX testing it’s tough to say.

  2. Hello James – I do agree a bit with Sandy. I’ve been following your blog for a bit and I’ve been aware of WeMontage but this is the first time I’ve actually clicked over to the website. The site is great – nice visuals as I scrolled down and then I clicked on the FAQ. Different looking page – not as visually friendly… as I scrolled down I was specifically looking for what textures I can apply it to. The FAQ is hard to navigate and doesn’t answer my questions. I have very textured walls so I’d like to apply the montage to a large canvas that I can then hang on the wall. Not sure if that would work.

    My only suggestion would be to make the FAQ page as part of the same original website and maybe not necessarily part of the support area. I could almost see it like a sales page… answer all the key questions I have then at the bottom – give me a link to make my montage. I think if I could easily navigate the questions in my head I’d be likely to buy.

    1. Hey Crystal, thanks for that feedback. Yeah, it is different, I use Zendesk, but maybe it’s time to create a separate page that’s part of the site. I’ll add that to the to-do list.

      In the meantime, I’ve changed the description of that page when you click on it and addressed the textured wall question right at the top of the page. I know this is not a perfect solution, but I do think it’s a little better.

      Thanks for your feedback, it’s incredibly valuable. Are there other questions you think we should answer right up front?
      Also, if you email me your address, I can send you a small sample for our textured surfaces, so you can see if it adheres. My email is james at wemontage dot com.

    1. Cool, thanks. I’ll take a look at email in a bit. Thanks again for the feedback.

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