When you’re a startup, getting distribution is very important. Although you may have a great product, if people don’t know about you, you’re unlikely to get much traction.
In response, many founders are tempted to go on a PR spree. For example, they start talking to the tech press and the press that covers the sector they’re in, and they start attending startup conferences. At the extreme, I’ve even seen startups record and publicly share their office conversations in the form of a reality show in order to gain publicity.
The problem with these approaches is that, while they will get some people to hear about you, they’re not targeted. If you think about the time and money that you spend on PR and the number of users or customers that it brings, it’s almost always a very ineffective use of your resources. When you’re a startup, you have the opportunity to target the innovators and early adopters who are going to convert into your users or customers at a much lower cost than if you perform a mass outreach.
Then why do startup founders still engage in these PR activities?
There are two reasons for this. The first is that it’s easy and the second is that it strokes their ego. Finding a creative way to attract users or customers free of charge, or optimizing your online marketing campaigns for specific audiences, is much more challenging than giving a journalist a few quotes, attending a conference, or recording and publicly sharing your in-office conversations. And the latter activities bring you personal recognition whereas the former don’t.
But the question you should be asking yourself is whether you want be personally recognized by people who are at best a very small fraction of your users, or appreciated for the quality of service that you offer many more of your actual users even though they may not know who you are.
If you focus on the latter, the former might eventually come. But if you focus on the former, the latter almost certainly won’t.