Growth June 1, 2020

Has anyone ever used a PR agency for a product launch? What were your results?

Valentin Hinov @ValCanBuild

I've been speaking with a local Edinburgh (UK) based PR agency and they're interested in doing a campaign for Thankbox.

But they are asking for £2k to do a press release for the launch of it, as it's still quite fresh. It's a lot of money (more than everything I've spent on this so far). I would be willing to spend it if I knew that it would deliver good results but I've never worked with a PR firm before so have no idea what to expect.

Can anyone share their results or advice on this matter?

  1. 2

    Why do you want to work with a PR agency, and what do you expect from it?

    I've worked with a small handful before.
    This in the capacity of:

    1. previous job with a large multi-national ad agency
    2. crypto startup
    3. fintech SME looking to grow

    There are a lot of ways to measure whether this is worth it.

    For example, I saw on thankbox.co that's it's just $4.99 per thankbox. So very roughly speaking, you'll need the PR agency to get you 500 new customers just to cover its cost. Let's say your press release converts at 0.5% (just a random number), this means it needs to reach 100,000 people.

    But honestly, there are more important strategic ways to think about it.

    If you guys are still in the early stage, you might be putting the cart before the horse. Rather than trying to cast a wide net, you might be better off learning more about the customers you currently have, what got them interested, what keeps them interested, and give them some way to do referrals or affiliates. And see if they actually like your product enough to refer their friends to it.

    This way, you get more of your ideal customers and learn more about your product. Both of which are essential during this early stage.

    A PR agency will write a press release and publish it on some publications, but this "spray and pray" method only works for later stage companies who already have a lot of polish on their messaging, positioning, target audience and product.

    Also, frankly, it might be worth it for you to learn how to write your own press releases and reach out to those publishers yourself. Owning those relationships are much more powerful than letting the PR agency own those relationships.

    It might help to listen to this IH podcast with with Dmitry Dragilev: https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/142-dmitry-dragilev-of-just-reach-out
    He talks about how you can do PR yourself.

    The messaging and positioning you'll learn in doing so is far more valuable than hiring someone else to do it and can be reapplied in so many other parts of your business.

    Finally, in the best case scenario that your PR works well, you might get a random influx of people who just want to give it a go. They might come, not purchase anything and leave. Or purchase once, complain and then leave because your product isn't mature enough to be suitable for late adopters.

    Ok, this is the final final thing: PR and marketing is not a one-off thing. You need to keep doing it over time. So you need to set up a sustainable and cost effective method of constantly reaching out to people. If 2k is a large sum of money to you, then you should hold off. Because you should expect to be spending 2k/month going forward. And as your business grows, that amount will only increase. It will never decrease.

    1. 1

      Hi Lesley - thank you so much for the detailed answer as well as the podcast suggestion - I've put it on my listen queue.

      I agree with everything you say.

      The only reason why I am even considering this is because I feel that I can tap into the current remote work trend as I built Thankbox in large part to serve remote team occasions. That's the story I want to craft and it's the story I've been emailing journalists and publications myself with.

      Perhaps that belief is misplaced. I have requested a more in-depth call with this agency in order to get more of an idea of what they'll do. Thank you for giving me plenty to think about before that!

      1. 1

        Ahh I see. If your story is not currently getting picked up, it might be that your messaging/positioning/product has a problem. This isn't something the PR agency can fix for you. Or if they can, they wouldn't be charging just 2k! ;)

        Also, in my experience, many people working remotely are super active online. And it might be helpful to just make a list of 20-50 remote workers with a healthy following and pitch them instead.

        If they like your product and are willing to tell their followers, that might be more valuable than PR and news sites.

  2. 2

    "...a campaign for Thankbox" as in for https://thankbox.co/ ?

    No offence, but that doesn't really seem like an industry disrupting startup that would generate tons of buzz on tech news sites.

    So what are you looking to achieve with that PR?

    Essentially PR is just "pitching journalists whatever story you have on your hands."

    So do you have a story to pitch in the first place?

    Suggested read: "Trust Me I'm Lying" by Ryan Holiday.

    1. 1

      Hi Tim - thanks for the book suggestion and your thoughts on this.

      I agree with you that this isn't an industry disrupting tech startup - I never intended it to be. It's more aimed at non-techies to be honest, since I've been getting better reactions from them for the idea than techies. Techies tend to be a bit jaded towards celebrating team occasions and that.

      I have been pitching journalists myself without much results right now.

      And my understanding is that a large part of the price tag the PR agency has is because they already have those relationships in place and have a much higher chance of resulting in some coverage.

      But, as Lesley above mentioned, it might be too early.