Life is not a race, but business is. It’s a race against time before the runway is up, where you have to ensure that revenues top costs, or the game is lost. This is done by bringing visibility to a product or service that you’re selling. One of the best ways to create visibility is with PR, or essentially writing articles and creating content.
Whether it’s Forbes, Yahoo, or an industry-specific publication, having your ideas and stories published by big brands will help bring credibility to you and your business. If you don’t have a background in PR, or your background is in education, then you probably don’t even know where to start with PR. At this point, many startups turn to PR agencies, which is a big mistake.
PR agencies lure you in with a simple promise: Get your PR handled by people with experience. The thing is, that’s what PR agencies promise every client, because that’s their business model, to service as many clients as possible. Naturally, that means there’ll collectively be a large demand for content creation and publishing on the agency. In order to streamline the demand, while maintaining the upkeep any business has, PR agencies usually turn to PR “distribution centers,” or places where they submit articles for $100 or so to be published anywhere they get accepted.

There are several problems with this for you, the client.

First off, content quality suffers because you don’t have domain experts working on the content, you just have some writer picked from the agency’s employees. Second, publication-quality suffers dramatically through PR distribution centers — normal people don’t browse these sites to get engaging, high-quality content. Third, publication-relevance suffers for the same reason that content quality suffers: The writers and publishers aren’t experts on what exactly you do. Fourth, communication suffers between you and the writer, because you’re working through an intermediary (the agency). Fifth, costs are high for the same reason that communication sucks, which is that the intermediary is slowing efficiency and requires upkeep.

At the end of the day, your articles do get published, otherwise, all these agencies would be out of work. However, discerning business owners should be aware of the quality, relevance, and honesty of the content these agencies are putting out, and if people are actually reading it. More often than not, PR agencies simply push out content without regard to quality, because that attention to detail is not scalable.

Therefore, I always recommend to startups to search for a single PR expert first, rather than a PR agency. A PR agency ends up picking a writer from their agency anyway (it’s not like the whole agency is working for you), so it’s always a better bet to look for someone who’s relevant for you and work with them directly.