One of the first things that Steve Jobs did after receiving a cheque from Mark Markkula was going to Regis McKenna to ask him to take Apple on as a client. Jobs understood that PR is mission critical, and sought out help in this department from the moment he could afford it.
I would say that If you don’t have a skilled communicator as well as a good copywriter in house, you need PR support from the moment you have achieved product/market fit and you are comfortable spending 30 – 50k EUR per year on PR and content marketing.
The job of PR is really twofold:
1. To tell the outside world about you
2. To tell you about the outside world
Point 2 is important, as a good PR agency will help you understand the bigger themes and trends that are out there, and can help you look inside your company for stories that fit into these themes.
Additionally, a PR agency will will help you to
- define your brand and brand story
- define your audiences
- define your messages
- plan your communications in a way that reduces waste (see also: Lean PR: what PR can learn from the lean startup movement )
It’s mostly the last point that is important to you as a startup. It’s not impossible to learn PR, just like it’s not impossible to learn code. The question is about opportunity cost, as well as missed opportunities.
As to the skills needed for a PR person these days:
1. Genuine knowledge and curiosity about the industry that you operate in
2. Deep insights into how earned media (press coverage) and owned media (blogging, infographics, Youtube, Twitter, social media, speaking opps…) interact
3. Strong copywriting skills (to execute content marketing)
4. Lots of hustle. He or she must absolutely love selling stuff to journalists, bloggers, influencers and conference gatekeepers.