Bill Gates and David Brent – two great minds who understand the value of PR
“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations”.
You may have seen this quote from Bill Gates. Most PR professionals will have it tattooed somewhere on their person, so sacrosanct is it to the entire industry.
Yes, admittedly, there is a slight question over whether Gates ever actually uttered the words. But there is also the question of why he would say such a thing… Why should a business commit to PR even if it’s in the financial doldrums? Or why should a startup invest in PR while on tight, bootstrapping budgets? Or why should PR come before other forms of marketing?
Buy a newer car
At the heart of Gates’ purported quote is the sense that PR hold immense value to a business – that it should be the first and last thing that an organisation invests in. Why? Perception.
Let’s take another famous quote, this time from a businessperson of lesser repute: David Brent. In one episode of The Office, Brent says: “Does a struggling salesman start turning up on a bicycle? No, he turns up in a newer car. Perception, yeah?”
I’m being completely serious. There is the crux of a very sensible point in there: perception is everything.
PR is fundamentally about building and maintaining a positive image of an individual or organisation. When it comes to liaising with media, effective PR will improve both the awareness and reputation of a brand in front its desired audience.
Now, one of the most common mistakes that business leaders make – and, in my experience, this is particularly true among tech startup founders (those who become engrossed in the inner mechanics of the tech they have developed) – is to assume the quality of their proposition will be directly proportional to the quality, and quantity, of the media coverage they will get. That is rarely the case.
Very, very few businesses are talked about due to the genuine inventiveness of their product or service. No, the prominence of a brand and number of articles featuring a business will almost always be the result of its PR strategy.
Put another way, why invest in any other part of the company if there is no PR strategy to ensure the right people have the right perception of you. And that, in my opinion at least, is what we should take from Gates’ quote.
Sharing your story
Whether to support customer acquisition, build the profiles of the leadership team, attract and retain talent, or elicit interest among investors, PR is essential. It will help tell your business’ story – who you exist for and why. It ensures people are aware of all the values you champion and perceptions you challenge. It will establish your brand’s tone of voice. It will keep the world abreast of your latest news. And it will maintain the desired, favourable image of your business.
Bill Gates knows this (apparently). So does David Brent (definitely). And while you might not choose to spend your last dollar on it, any business not actively engaged in PR – in-house or with an agency – is undoubtedly overlooking one of the most singular ingredients for business success.
- PR for a startup: Two key tips for achieving success
- Why work with a PR agency?
- How to choose the right PR agency
About the author
With a history degree, journalism Master’s, and several years’ experience writing about business and technology for both the national and trade press, Dominic moved into the world of content marketing and comms in 2014. He joined City Road Comms in 2016, becoming the agency’s director of comms two years later. Dominic now oversees clients’ strategies and the overall operations of the agency.Email