Last week, an opinion piece in Entrepreneur magazine by Dallas Mavericks owner and business mogul Mark Cuban asserting that startups “should never hire a PR firm” got the PR world buzzing. That guidance is part of Mr. Cuban’s “12 rules for startups,” which is featured in his latest book, “How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It” (Amazon.com review here).
Rule No. 11 states:
“Never hire a PR firm. A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.”
PRSay reached out to Mr. Cuban to get his take on why he made this statement and for further insight into his thinking on the role and value of public relations.
PRSA: What prompted your assertion that startups should “never hire a PR firm”? Do you see PR firms and PR professionals not providing the right kind of value for entrepreneurs?
Mark Cuban: It’s not really about what PR professionals can and can’t do. It’s about prioritizing the use of limited resources available to a startup entrepreneur.
It is rare that an entrepreneur fully understands what is involved in putting a PR professional in a position to succeed. In order to be successful with a PR firm, [an entrepreneur has to] dedicate a lot of time to educating them on the startup. It requires quite a bit of time to interact with them and to make sure everyone is on the same page, and it requires quite a bit of follow up to create results. Although time is a critical resource in a startup, these aren’t even the biggest problems for most entrepreneurs.
The biggest issue is that very often, entrepreneurs, particularly those in their first startup, are looking for ways to offload responsibility for elements of their business that need to be core competencies of the entrepreneur.
If there is one element every entrepreneur/CEO must take responsibility for, it is sales. If you start a company and you don’t take full responsibility for selling your product or service right when you start, there is a good chance you are going to have problems. As the person at the top, you need to always be selling.