PR has the capacity to generate powerful conversations around your biz: Aman Dhall

In conversation with Adgully, Aman Dhall, Founder, CommsCredible, speaks about why start-ups need PR and how PR agencies can help start-ups carry forward the initial momentum. He also sheds light on the essential role that PR plays in shaping positive public image and helping start-ups scale optimal growth in the long run.

How do you maintain the initial momentum? How can PR help start-ups carry on with initial momentum?

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In the initial stages of your startup, it is important to start building a voice for your brand through strong storytelling by media influencers. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to kickstart your PR building in this crucial phase for your startup or small business. For starters, word-of-mouth publicity is one of the most effective brand building tools out there. In the social media era, PR has the capacity to generate powerful conversations around your business.
There are great examples of brands who have used a PR-first approach, and become powerful brands through using both owned media and earned media very effectively over a period of time. Zomato, Xiaomi, Zomato are great examples of brands who have leveraged PR very optimally.

I get asked this question many times – at what stage should one hire a PR person? I would say, right at the seed stage. Usually, a marketer is hired first, who has an understanding of PR. I would encourage start-ups to hire an integrated communication professional first, who has an understanding of marketing. If PR professionals can upgrade their skill set, I feel they offer a far wider value for a start-up, given their ability to drive story making for the brand, at multiple levels.

As far as maintaining the visibility momentum for a brand goes, it’s all about consistency in storytelling, and ensuring right pivots at intervals for the brand narrative to stay fresh and relevant. With PR, the more visible you are to the target audience via credible sources, the more they will trust you. Ideally, your PR activity should take place in phases. When not pushing bigger stories, your effort must be towards creating content for various channels. You can release blogs, social media posts and ebooks to keep the media voice growing.
How can PR help start-ups talk about the work they do?

PR plays an essential role in shaping positive public image and helps start-ups scale optimal growth in the long run. Start-ups don’t have an established brand image and a history of successes. This is the reason they need a PR-first approach that is unique and stands them out from established businesses.

A mistake a lot of start-ups do is to copy the PR tactics of another brand, that’s a big NO. It’s a credibility building activity, and needs a unique approach that should resonate with the founder’s vision, style of working, and the brand’s market identity.

Much like you need a professional doctor, or a lawyer for health & legal purposes, you need a PR Artist/ Specialist PR firm that understands your start-up’s business, consumer, the founder’s vision, and the target market for leveraging media to tell your story to the world. The PR Artist, as I would like to say, would help you with the brand's strategic positioning and communications based on your track record and expertise. This includes articulating your messaging, doing market surveys and using media influencers to communicate your message.

It’s important through PR, your brand and category building story is coming to the fore, influencing your target audience and helping create a relatable connection for your brand. PR firms have plenty of content tactics that can help startups and their products. This ranges from press releases, blogs, article pitches for journalists, arranging interviews and promoting the startup via trade influencers. There are a whole lot of content marketing tools that help you with brand positioning, demonstrate expertise and credibility and give you a chance to share the growth story of your own brand.

How can PR help create a sharper engagement strategy and continue the engagement?

Brand engagement is one the key objectives of any PR campaign. A PR campaign can be used to grow engagement and positive interactions between your brand and target audience. Keeping your audience engaged is vital to a brand’s long-term success.
What’s key here is clear objectives detailed for PR. Not all brand campaigns may have scope for PR to drive sharper engagement. It also depends on the expertise, experience and media assessment of the PR Artist, how this person sees engagement developing from the larger narrative.

For instance, at PolicyBazaar, we started with the whole story of “Ullu mat bano”, which is ‘Compare First, Then Buy’. We ensured our PR consistently created stories around – why comparison-first approach online is fast, cost-effective and has sharper insights to draw a quick analysis. We seeded multiple stories with different angles sharing our messaging by releasing survey findings, personal finance awareness articles, blogs, etc.
The intent was to make Policybazaar synonymous with insurance buying online, and should be the first name that comes to mind when anyone thinks of insurance. While the digital marketing and advertising campaigns were focused on the larger message to grab the attention of consumers, the SEO-led content and PR ensured there was long-term engagement through multiple story narratives around the core messaging.

I have witnessed sharper engagement for PR campaigns that aim at promoting engagement based on insightful content and are supported by a strategy that sparks positive conversations around your product or service on social media platforms relevant to your brand, that can be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter, or even offline through industry associations.
I always feel sharing best practices, case studies, long form storytelling and good copywriting  evokes sharp engagement. It's constant learning here, when it comes to engagement, are you using analytics to learn and relearn, that’s also very critical when you are building a community that follows your activities keenly.

How can PR help startups to face the heat of the mass and controversies?

Every business should have a PR crisis lead person identified in advance. I believe the PR lead person should have a team comprising both in-house professionals having inside company knowledge and external experts with a journalistic point of view.
A crisis has no fixed form or definition and there is no rulebook to follow when it comes to crisis management. Also, every individual or brand has a different definition of crises. Media thrives on controversial and probing content, thus an agile and business understanding PR team can only help a brand from getting struck in a swirl of controversy. There are many things that can tarnish your image. Moreover, organisations face several communication challenges including dilemmas regarding media announcements. To make matters worse, companies facing intense media scrutiny and pressure from the public end up shutting communication – which is a big NO NO.

Here, an empowered identified PR team can step up and take charge. Leveraging their expertise and media relations, PR professionals can track the issue decibels in media and measure the severity of the problem. They can help with timely, well-crafted messaging and send them out through the right channels. Appointing a response team will ensure the right people are speaking on your company’s behalf. During a crisis, communicating with all stakeholders including investors, consumers, employees and the public is an important part of ensuring the brand is keeping its normal.


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