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Why Startups And SMEs Need To Stop Measuring Success Through Media Coverage Alone


by Chen Terng Shing, Founder and CEO of SYNC PR

Startups and SMEs do not have the budget that most businesses do, but probably require public relations or PR, as it is more commonly known, as much or if not, even more than larger businesses. 

However, over the last 12 years of working in the PR industry, what I’ve noticed is that most startups and SMEs look at PR like it is a necessary evil rather than a genuinely effective business growth tool. It is a misconception, but most entrepreneurs do not fully understand PR and do not believe it is actually effective.

To overcome their distrust, many often resort to extra KPIs and ROI without putting proper context to these numbers.

Proper measurement for PR is possible.

Firstly, accurate measurement for public relations is possible. Do not let the industry tell you otherwise and do not be fooled by impressive numbers without actual context to why they are important. Judging the success of PR campaigns has usually been tied to the number of articles generated, positive vs negative sentiment and other factors, which are not directly tied to business goals. This isn’t ideal for young startups or SMEs that value every single dollar spent and need to see returns in the form of growth or new business.

Tying your PR campaign to business goals is possible and in my opinion, the only way to ensure PR stays relevant in today’s changing business world. 

As a startup founder myself and entrepreneur, I would say that you should look at what you consider to be a success in business and tie your PR goals to that. If you’re looking at inbound lead generation, increasing web traffic or visibility in the investment sector, then make sure your PR is focused on that. 

We fight a constant battle against having to use the amount of media coverage as a KPI for success, because it doesn’t actually mean success, it just means we can get your brand featured in a publication. 

How PR helps you reach your business goals.

To provide some context, generating coverage for any brand or story is possible, but whether or not it adds any value to that brand is debatable. How brands define value in terms of business growth is up to them. A consumer business may not require inbound lead generation as compared to an enterprise company that deals with a few clients at most. However, the underlying principle is still the same. 

Good PR can help by providing a platform for brands to share their story, their value-add and much more with potential customers and even other stakeholders. For any startup or SME looking to do PR, I would suggest first asking yourself these questions:

  1. What do I hope to gain out of this campaign? 
  2. Who are my ideal stakeholders and am I targeting them properly through these publications?
  3. Why does success look like to me?
  4. Is the effort worth the benefit?

If you can answer these questions with confidence, then there’s a good chance that if your campaign is successful it will help your business grow. 

Why all of this actually matters.

The industry as we see it now is a bit stagnant and has not quite figured out how to successfully work with startups and growing SMEs. Agencies are trying and mostly failing to adapt to the changing work scopes and requirements, which means not being able to balance budgets and still trying to fight amongst themselves for the 1% that is made up of a few dozen companies.

There is a whole market of untapped potential in the region that requires a little bit of education but are essentially ready for PR to become the catalyst they need. So maybe it is time to rethink the way you see PR.


Chen Terng Shing is the Founder and CEO of SYNC PR, a PR and content marketing startup that uses technology to reduce time wasting and administrative tasks in delivering results. Based in Singapore, but travelling around Southeast Asia every month, Terng Shing built SYNC to help startups and SMEs build and share their brand story through media and content. His experience includes a decade of work in PR and communications agencies, managing fortune 500 companies to the leading startups in Southeast Asia.