Bill Gates is famously quoted as saying “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations”. And there are a great many who would agree with him.
For businesses serious about making a name for themselves, PR is a vital part of their existence. Not only is it an important tool for informing the general public about your product or services, but it can also establish you as an expert in your field, put you into contact with potential collaborators, unite your employees under common key messages, and help steer your ship through difficult waters.
The worth of PR is especially strong for start-up businesses who must work especially hard to make a mark and get a step ahead of their competition.
One man well versed in what’s needed for new businesses to succeed on this front is Samer Renno, founder and CEO of Renno Communications Group.
He argues that there are few things as important to new businesses as external communications. And he should know, having been in PR since the early 1990s, and going through the gruelling start-up process himself.
“The best place for a start-up to start is external communications,” he says.
“It’s basically direct interaction with the media. Press releases, interviews, features, briefings, and things like this. It’s direct engagement that will immediately get your key message across to people. External communications is so valuable for start-ups.”
Launching Renno Communications Group in Lebanon in 1999, having worked in PR in Dubai for several years before that, Renno has seen more than his fair share of start-up successes and failures, and is straight to the point in identifying a major problem among some entrepreneurs.
“One of the main difficulties is that a lot of start-ups don’t see external communications as being as important as it really is. They don’t put enough focus on it in their budgets and business plans.
“It is as important – if not more so – than where your office is going to be, how many people you’re going to hire, and other aspects like this. It has to be part of your thinking from day one – it’s that important.
“When you start a business, you’re a small fish in a big pond. Whichever sector you’re in, there will be a lot of competitors who are both more established than you, and who are already using PR. You need an external communications strategy to compete with them and to communicate effectively with the market. You need to be able to bestow legitimacy among target markets, investors and stakeholders.
“That’s why PR is so vital to start-ups.”
When Renno started out in PR, the industry in the Middle East was very different to today.
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