Just a PR Girl in a Startup World

Let’s start this in typical confession fashion.

Hi, my name is Darcy and I’m a public relations professional in a hot, mad love affair with startups. That’s right, startups. Tech startups, social good startups, any kind of startup really. When you think “startup” images of Zuckerberg, Uber and Silicon Valley probably flash before your eyes. You probably envision web developers, maybe even hackers. UX designers probably run a close 2nd, and throw in a little biz dev (a startup’s fancy way of saying “sales”) for good measure and you have the quintessential startup team. But what about public relations (PR)?

In a world where sincerity and job security are on the decline, startups give me a new sense of hope. To be a successful startup, there is a certain level of passion, dedication and sweat equity required. You can’t fake it to make it, because you simply won’t make it. The concept of creating something from scratch, out of an uncontrollable desire to make the world a better or more efficient place, is what I find so irresistible. I have yet to meet someone involved with startups that is not a genuinely good person, and the successful ones are usually kind with their time and paying it forward to the next generation of movers and shakers.

That being said, the female – male ratio in the startup world is already low, the PR girl one being even lower. And the fact of the matter is that PR is a female dominated industry. The startup industry? Not so much. The irony isn’t lost on me. Having a PR person on your startup team can make or break your business, but there seems to be a real lack of it in the industry. Attention is more on technical skills and getting your MVP ready, but who’s going to gain the exposure necessary once it is? These facts don’t turn me off of startups, but do single me out.

Here are some of the reasons why startups are so appealing to the PR professional in me:

  • Building Something from the Beginning

In PR, we’re always trying to find a new spin (pardon my French) on things. To be given a completely clean and blank slate, is like Christmas morning for us. The opportunity to create a logo, branding, voice, and everything from scratch is like a loot of gold to a passionate PR professional. Creating an online presence from nothing is hard and long work, but you know what? We don’t have to undo anyone else’s mistakes. It’s like a breathe of fresh air in a sometimes stuffy industry, and I absolutely adore breathing it in, slowly and repeatedly.

  • Creative Challenges

The problems and issues you are going to face with a startup are probably going to be new ones. They might be varied, random and diverse, but never boring. They will get your mind working in ways it probably hasn’t in a while, and you have to factor in a lot of things you might not have had to before. It will be challenging, but the rewarding kind of challenging that will make you a better PR professional because of it.

  • They Need Our Help the Most

The downside to having so many technical people on one team is that you can create an amazing product, but how are you going to get the word out? PR is crucial to startups, especially in the initial phases. There is so much more at stake and you feel your successes more when working with startups. Gaining that traction and a prominent feature can make the difference in interest from investors and VCs, and from working out of your parent’s basement to an actual office. The stakes are high, but when you do win, there is nothing like seeing the real value of your work on a startup’s brand and bank account.

I don’t only think that the startup world can learn a little something from the PR industry, I daresay the tables could also be turned. I apply a lot of my startup personality and passion to my PR work. It allows me to have a much more raw and genuine approach to my business. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t fake it to make it in startups, and in PR there unfortunately is a huge stigma for just that.

3 things PR professionals can learn from startups:

  • Harness your raw passion: in PR you have to be the #1 cheerleader for your brand, remind yourself of the initial reasons you got excited about that client and what they are doing and let that shine through your work. How will they believe in something if you don’t believe in it yourself? Your audience will respond to sincerity.
  • Bootstrap, bootstrap, bootstrap: pay more attention to where you are actually spending your budget vs. where you should be. Clients will appreciate your understanding of their finances. Remember, PR is about cultivating relationships with your audience; it’s not marketing or sales so traditional marketing means (and dollars) may not be necessary.
  • It’s all about the team: many would agree that a great team far outweighs a great idea when it comes to startups; This applies to PR as well. If your team isn’t on the same page or has the same goals for your client, it is impossible to work in unity, and therefore impossible to strategically achieve your goals. If there isn’t consistency behind the scenes, how can they expect consistency and harmony in their branding and with their audience?

Communications is usually the name of my game, but I’ll gladly hang up my hat, or at least wear a more creative one, to play in the startup world for a while, and hopefully convince more PR girls (and boys) to do so as well. The relationship between public relations and startups may not be an obvious one, but it’s an important one.

5 Ways to Not Waste Wasted Time 

Sounds a little redundant, does it not? Hear me out first; I’m talking about making the most of your phone in moments of madness. I’m talking about when you’re in a situation where you’re forced to wait, but gasp, don’t have wifi or any service. Back to the prehistoric age we go. Whether you’re waiting in line, on a plane, or at the cottage awake before everyone else, you can actually be on your phone and still be productive. Believe it or not, social media is not the only way to waste time. Mind blowing, I know, I know.

Here are a few of my favourite phone productivity hacks:

1. Start with your photos 

Almost everyone I know has went to snap a photo only to receive the dreaded warning that no, they do not have sufficient space to do so. And of course deleting one photo doesn’t equal getting to take one (because that would be all too easy). Too often have I seen (or participated) in a scenario where a bunch of people are posing impatiently for the photo while the person who owns the phone is frantically attempting to immediately delete as much as they can to free up space. Deleting irrelevant photos while you’re waiting is a great way to avoid this.

2. Since you’re already in your photos…

Why not organize them too? Due to the mentioned above problem, I actually traded up to get a phone with more space. Mo’ space, mo’ problems. Now I have so many photos (8,458 to be exact) that when I’m looking for something, it’s almost as long a process to find it as the issue above. My solution? Folders. I have a multitude of folders that range from client photos, pictures of my dog (obviously the largest of the folders), quotes, Pinterest pics, and even old photos that are #throwbackthursday worthy.

3. To do lists

My mind is always running a mile a minute and I know it can’t be trusted to remember every detail that passes through. In moments of waiting, I use notes or Evernote to jot down to do lists. If you have a favourite app for lists, I want to hear about it!

4. Turn off your phone

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly connected. My phone is my alarm, my clock, my lifeline really. When battery gets dangerously low, to charge we go. I never, ever let it die, which is where I’m wrong. It needs to be shut down every once and a while, not solely for my sanity but for the good of your phone. Shutting it down will help preserve the battery, free up more space, allow it to function faster, and a bunch of other great tech stuff that I don’t understand. The key? Close ALL apps before shutting it down. This was a biggie for me. Since I go so long without turning my phone off, I would have 20+ apps open and running in the background, and wondering why the heck my phone was so slow. If you don’t close these before shutting your phone off, they will all reopen once you turn it back on.

5. Blog or write

I’m currently writing this while on my iPhone on a plane and to be honest, it’s when I write best. When I don’t have service, I don’t have distractions or emails coming in or social media notifications that obviously have to be checked immediately; I can actually focus. In a world where ADD is rising and our attention spans are lowering, being able to completely focus on the task at hand is like seeing a unicorn. Some tasks are alright to manage while multitasking; writing is not one of them. When the service gets going, get pen to paper. Or fingers to screen?

What are your favourite phone productivity hacks? Have you tried any of these?