Back in 2006, several months into launching my first startup, ZapTix, an enticing email arrived from a Chicago-based PR agency, where I was located at the time. We had a compelling back-and-forth conversation about their services, which all sounded great — until, that is, I learned about the price: $5,000 per month.
As far as PR agencies go, this, I’ve since learned, is on the low-end of retainers. In Silicon Valley, rates for reputable agencies hover around $10,000 to $15,000 per month, and only go up from there.
For the right company, in the right circumstances, this can be a bargain, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for PR professionals who go to tremendous lengths to craft stories, build momentum, and communicate effectively on behalf of their clients.
That said, the agency model often feels like a one-size-fits-all solution, flopping like a bulky sweater over the bodies of lean and bootstrapped ventures, who may need far less than what an agency provides. Often, the best pitch for an emerging startup comes not from an agent, but from the direct, authentic voice of a company’s founder.
Realizing this, a new venture, PressFriendly, offers a compelling, freemium service to help startups create their own news and share it with receptive journalists.
Founded by Paul Andren and Joel Denya, who met at YCombinator startup HelloSign, the company guides startups through a nine-step PR wizard, starting with a one-line takeaway, proceeding to various details about the release (angles, important details, type of announcement, and so on), and finally matching the story with journalists who are likely to express interest in the content.
As a reporter, I spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through irrelevant, un-newsworthy, uninteresting pitches. I (and I think I can speak for my colleagues here) am not any more likely to cover a startup that is pitched by a PR person than I am to cover one that’s pitched directly by an entrepreneur. In fact, I prefer the latter. What matters is the pitch has to catch my interest and contain relevant information.
Furthermore, all of our email addresses can be found on our author profile pages, so it’s not as if there is some secret, exclusive pipeline to our inbox.
So startups, with their limited resources, do not need to shell out for an expensive agency if they can get the pitch right.