When to Hire a PR Firm
Beyond advertising, businesses should also create a public relations strategy to communicate with their customers. People often trust what a third party journalist, analyst or customer says about a company or products over a paid advertisement. This makes mentions in the media crucial in promoting your products and services, and your reputation, to the consumers or businesses you are trying to reach.
Having worked in the public relations field for 25 years as an independent consultant, in-house PR manager and with a global marketing firm, I’ve had the opportunity to work with small businesses and large, multi-national firms.
I’ve found that it doesn’t matter the size of your company, whether you are a lone entrepreneur or a CEO with an in-house marketing team, there are times when it’s necessary to seek outside public relations assistance.
Avoid the Four Biggest Mistakes
Whether you have a short-term project or want to set up a long-term, retainer-type relationship for on-going support, it’s important to hire a PR firm for the right reasons. Before you send out a request for proposals or begin setting up meetings with PR firms, you need to identify your goals and what you hope the program will achieve.
As in any business, there are good and not-so-good PR firms out there. But even the sharpest, most talented and best-connected PR firm can’t help you meet your goals if they are unrealistic.
This is not a total list by any means, but here are the four key mistakes that you need to avoid before you begin:
- Using public relations as a short-term fix.
- Public relations is a long-term investment. Relationships with the media, and with the customers or business owners who will be touched by that media, need time to develop and grow. It’s critical to be in touch with your target audiences continuously to remain relevant. However, if you are in a situation where you need short-term help for a new product, a special event or a one-time opportunity, make sure the firm you talk with already has your target media relationships in place through its previous client experience – or has the wherewithal to build new relationships quickly.
- Thinking public relations can replace good business practices.
- You can have the most glowing story in the world, but it won’t matter if customers are disappointed by what you deliver. Just like the old saying that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” you can’t hide behind public relations.
- Not doing your homework.
- The first three letters in “news” are n-e-w. If your message is not fresh in some way, the media won’t be interested. Think about what you look for in your daily paper and what would interest you, then think about what your customers would be interested in knowing about you rather than in what you think they should know. That’s what would make a good story idea for the media.
- Investing little and expecting big results.
- This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get the best deal possible, because that’s what we all do when we operate a business. But if you’re expecting 500 media placements per month with a $500 retainer, you need to rethink your investment. Although it’s less expensive than advertising, there’s a value in media relations – and sometimes you have to invest more to get the publicity and placements that you want. But remember, be realistic in your expectations (see #2, above).
When to Pull the Trigger
If your communications staff simply cannot find the time to get your news releases out the door, nor the time to plan your marketing and public relations strategy, that’s when you know it’s time to outsource. Likewise, if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have the time or the talent to do the job yourself, then seek outside assistance.
Public relations is difficult. If you find yourself missing reporters’ deadlines, it’s definitely time to outsource. Reporters never forget someone who’s made them look bad by blowing their deadlines. Worse, you will begin missing out on some great opportunities to be included in stories relevant to your business.
Furthermore, with the growing impact of social media, many businesses and corporations find they need to outsource public relations to maintain consistent and timely communication with their customers on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media channels.
So, if you’re missing deadlines or other public relations opportunities because of time or staff constraints, the time is now to find a firm to lend a hand.
What to Know Before the Meeting
Before you meet with a public relations firm, take a look internally and outline what you’ll be asking your new public relations partner to do. Remember, your firm should act as an extension of your company and/or your in-house marketing personnel. Therefore, the more established your objectives are, the better you will be at determiningwhich firm will best fit your needs.
Likewise, this will provide valuable direction for the public relations firm at the outset, resulting in a better, more fine-tuned proposal for you. Before your first agency meeting:
- Create a list of goals to share with the firm to better understand what you expect from the arrangement
- Have a clear idea of what you would consider a successful public relations campaign
- Determine who/whom will serve as the spokesperson for your company or organization
- Identify who will serve as your point person in coordinating with, and managing, the PR firm
Just as every business or organization has different procedures they operate by, so do PR firms. When you meet with your potential PR partner, ask about how they work with their clients. How will they communicate with you? How often? What can you expect to see after the first month of engagement? Most importantly, does the PR firm understand your business?
Although a PR firm cannot know as much about your company as you do after a meeting or two, you should at least have a comfort level that they grasp what your business is about, the markets or audience you are trying to reach, and the best public relations strategies to help you achieve your objectives.
Having the answer to these questions will help you determine the best firm – and help you both establish your future working relationship at the outset.
Once Your PR Firm is Onboard
Any relationship takes time, effort and two-way communication to make it successful. These are the same ingredients that will make your public relations efforts a success. If your PR partner is as passionate about your story as you are, and understands how to tell your story to the media, analysts and other influencers, you’ll achieve your PR goals and objectives.
Public relations cannot work miracles overnight. It will not immediately drive business to your door or overcome shoddy business practices. What public relations can do is enhance the good business practices you already have by improving your credibility – and by helping your customers get to know you better through a variety of media channels.
Published: September 23, 2012 By: