The PR Firm DebateDear Mark Cuban,

I respect the heck out of you. I normally agree with most things you say and do. But this time? This time, you’re wrong.

Much love,


Never Hire a PR Firm

A few years ago, he wrote, “Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Startups” in Entrepreneur, and I like to re-read it every year to see if he’s had a change of heart.

(He hasn’t.)

I agree with nearly everything he said—and I love to review the things that are also important to me.

Things such as, “Keep your organizational chart flat,” “sales cure all, “no offices,” and “hire people who will love working there.”

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

But his 11th rule is, “Never hire a PR firm.”

And I have a problem with that. A big one. (As you might imagine.)

This is what he says.

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.

You know what? He’s right. There is no one who will be better at pitching your business than you. Ever.

The PR firm will get close, but they’re not in your brain and they can’t answer questions on the fly.

Because of that, I’m a big believer in the chief executive holding the relationships with the journalists that can add credibility to his or her business.

And I agree it’s fairly easy for you to call, email, or tweet the journalists and bloggers you’re already reading, surfing, and watching. You should contact them.

But is it the best use of your time? Is it the best use of your time to get find the email address of the person publishing industry information and send a message introducing yourself and the company?

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you have a non-busy week and you send out 20 emails and then go about your week. The following week, you’re on your way to Hong Kong for a potential vendor meeting and, when you land, you have 10 responses from the emails you sent last week.

They all want an interview, additional information, photos, bios, and more…within the next 48 hours.

Your time suddenly went from growing an organization, being the chief sales person, creating the process and structure for scalability, and coaching and mentoring your team…to being a “PR flack.” And now you’re doing it while on the road.

Where an Entrepreneur Should Spend Time

When I first started Arment Dietrich and then Spin Sucks, I did everything. Literally.

Bills would come in and I entered them into QuickBooks. I guessed at how to categorize them (which wasn’t always right). I paid bills and manually cut payroll.

Then I created the employee handbook, the employment contracts, the non-disclosure agreements, and the client contracts. It wasn’t unlike me to stay on email all day, scheduling meetings for myself, booking my travel, negotiating speaking fees, and curating and scheduling our social media.

Sure, I can do all of those things , but I learned very quickly it wasn’t the best use of my time. And, it’s far less expensive to pay someone else to do the work than muddle through it.

I wanted to be able to spend my time with clients and new business prospects so I could grow the agency. To create products and build a professional development arm that works directly with agency owners and communicators.

I didn’t want to spend my time entering bills and cutting checks, answering the phones, or buying office supplies.

Likewise, you can do your own media relations. It’s not hard. It’s certainly not rocket science. No one will die if you screw it up. It’s all about building relationships and, if you’re growing an organization, it’s likely you’re pretty darn good at it.

But is that where you want to spend your time?

Always Hire a PR Firm

Look at it this way: a PR firm will not only help you manage the relationships, he or she will also:

  • Help you tell your story;
  • Build a multi-media kit;
  • Do the follow-ups;
  • Make sure the story runs (and get a copy of it);
  •  Talk to the journalist if anything is wrong—and get a retraction printed, if so;
  • Provide additional information as the story is being created; and
  • Track the individual pieces’ effectiveness to your overall business goals.

To boot, media relations is not the only thing a really good PR firm will do. They’ll also implement a PESO model program that integrates content marketing, media relations, social media, and paid social, affiliate marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization.

So imagine your having to do all of that, while also growing your business, leading a team, and managing a P&L.

If you’ve hired a PR firm that has capability beyond media relations, they will also know how to help you create content, motivate people to comment and share it, help you build community, generate qualified leads, and design the metrics for tracking to results.

So, you tell me, would you rather spend your time growing your business and getting a return for your investors…or manage the media relationships that are likely to come as you begin to succeed?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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