Sooner or later, startups will need professional PR help
Disrupt to shed light on ins and outs of engaging PR practitioners
IN the early days of a startup’s journey, getting media coverage or publicity is typically an organic and ad hoc affair.
Savvy founders would reach out to journalists covering the startup scene to get the initial story of their venture out to the public. Others would catch the eye of more consumer-facing publications or shows.
But even if they are successful in their initial pitches for coverage, there comes a point for many a startup – whether due to business objectives, fast growth or heightened interest – where engaging an in-house communications practitioner or external public relations (PR) firm to manage the chaos is no longer a luxury but a necessity.
But how do you know when it’s time to call in the professionals?
In my own dealings with various startups, I have stressed that when it is financially feasible to do so, they should engage either in-house communications talent or an external agency to help craft and manage their public face.
As a founder, you have better ways of spending your precious time, be it on product development, talent recruitment or fundraising – let someone else have the pleasure of fielding last-minute media requests for information.
That being said, the PR discipline goes beyond having someone handle press releases, bug the media to attend events, or keep track of which journalist gets first dibs on interview slots – though for flustered founders, this is indeed a much-needed service.
The professionals will tell you that PR can’t overcome a mediocre product or flawed business plan, and that 'PR' is not an acronym for 'press release.'
So what value does the PR practice bring to budding companies? And more importantly, how much would it cost and can you really afford it?
The 18th edition of the monthly Disrupt panel discussion and networking session, with the theme Professional PR help, do you need it?, aims to give determined entrepreneurs, or merely the curious, insights to all this, and more. It is the follow-up session to a Disrupt session held last year on the basics startups would need to know when engaging the media.
That session was titled Rules of Engagement: Media Relations 101. Think of this next session as Media Relations 201.
On the panel, we have Justin Then (pic), currently the managing director of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Malaysia.
He boasts more than 20 years of experience in journalism and communications, having started his career in 1992 as a technology journalist for Computerworld Malaysia. In his PR career, he has advised major brands such as Alcatel-Lucent, Dell, Hitachi Data Systems, Microsoft and Symantec, among others.
Then currently oversees the Technology Practice at Hill+Knowlton and provides senior counsel to clients such as communications services provider Maxis, LG Electronics, and government-linked company Cyberview.
We also have Raymond Siva (pic), managing director of Edelman Kuala Lumpur, who brings with him 17 years of experience in journalism and communications.
He leads one of the largest PR firms in Malaysia with over 45 staff, providing counsel to clients such as MRT Corp, Felda Global Ventures, Tune Insurance, Pemandu ETP, Pavilion KL, Petronas, BP Castrol, ESPN, Emery Oleochemicals, Unilever and Sarawak Energy.
Joining them will be Hazel Hassan, vice president of Marketing & Strategic Partnership at Cradle Fund.
Hazel (pic) brings more than 20 years' experience in both the corporate and consultancy worlds, with exposure in IT and telco industries, having served with Avira, REDtone International and F-Secure Corporation in the course of her career.
In a break from the norm, in line with the Disrupt series’ mission to 'disrupt' the status quo, I will be taking on the duties of moderator for this edition. DNA founder and chief executive officer Karamjit Singh will be joining the discussion as a member of the audience.
We hope to confirm one more panelist closer to the event date, but in the meantime, be sure to RSVP for a seat at what will be a very enlightening discussion.
The 18th Disrupt will be taking place at 5:30pm on Wednesday, May 28 at the Training Room, Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, Suite 4.8.1, Level 4, PNB Darby Park, 10 Jalan Binjai, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
To reserve your seat, click on the link below: