Pictured: Cathy White
Ever wondered how startups get their PR done? Us too: so we spoke to Cathy White, founder of CEW Communications, a startup that specialises in PR for startups. Meta.
What problem with PR inspired you to start CEW Communications?
I started to notice the same problem whilst working in the UK tech startup industry: Whether or not you’re a startup, scaleup, investor or accelerator, you’re probably putting PR in a box which is actually far too small – PR is no longer just about getting into broadsheets and online publications, it’s about a whole range of channels you should be using to spread the word about your business. PR has evolved: it’s still about digital and news media, but it’s also about events, it’s about content curation, it’s about social media and it’s about founders individually stepping up to the plate and working on how they communicate their company’s value in-person and on stage. So we work with tech businesses to really show them that if you think outside of the box on PR – like the biggest success stories in PR recently – your Tranferwise’s of this world – you’ll see results.
So nuts and bolts: what does CEW communications do?
CEW Communications offers a range of services which includes PR but also expands, as mentioned, into advice and execution on events, content curation, social media and working with you to refine how you speak how you pitch. We also have startup specific packages so one of the pain points that I saw working in agencies and then working in-house alongside startups was that the startup PR agency relationship often does not function well for either side. We offer service packages which are designed to train you and your internal team in how to manage communications effectively until a point in the future where you might need to have an agency so it’s designed for companies that might be at seed level or below.
You touched upon an early stage startup engaging a PR agency often being a recipe for disappointment – why is that?
It’s both the startup and the PR agency having the wrong expectations of one another. A lot of agencies promise that you’re going to get lots of coverage and you will be frustrated when that doesn’t happen – but it’s not as simple as paying someone £5k a month and being on the front page three weeks later.
A lot of the time people are frustrated because they view a PR agency as distributors rather than advisers, and they don’t take the advice on their storyline that they’re paying for. You have to invest in the story you want to be told, you have to listen to PR agencies, and you also have to be prepared for the fact that s**t happens – your story can be bounced by bigger events, and you need to be prepared for that.
What attracted you to stay working in startups?
Energy. In startups there’s a lot of buzz and when I started working about six years ago the Silicon Roundabout was just starting to find its feet. Everyone you spoke to was super passionate about what they were doing and feeding on that energy just became addictive, and it still is to this day.
Which tech startups have you done PR for?
When I first started I did PR for moo.com, Transferwise, Songkick, Index Ventures, Seeders, Codeclub and Braniant. After Spark PR I went to Albion Drive, joined as employee number two then we scaled up to 16. Then I left and went to Seedcamp so I moved into an in-house role. After that I went to TechCityUK and by that point I’d had enough, I’d been doing it for too many years and I thought ‘right, I’m going to start my own business’.
What’s your favourite campaign that you’ve seen in recent memory?
I love what Transferwise do, which I know everyone does, it’s the staple that a lot of startup PR people refer back to now. I’ll always remember when I went on Twitter and I saw Tarvit and Christo in their underwear walking through Liverpool St Station. That was one I wasn’t expecting to see. That kind of thing remains with you and they’ve gone on to do even more of that like the guy who went up one the banking towers in Paris with a Transferwise flag, crazy! But it gets coverage and it’s the stuff you will always remember.
If you want to hear more from Cathy, which we’re sure you do, then read her top advice in 5 Simple Do’s and Don’t’s For doing PR on a Startup Budget.
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