At some point in your business’ life, you’re going to need the services of a PR professional. Perhaps you’ve got big goals that require getting your message out to a bigger audience — one you can’t reach if you tried to do your own PR, and one you don’t have the staff for.
Choosing a PR partner to help you accomplish your goals can leave you as confused as a kid in a candy store. With so many options and a limited budget, how do you get the most bang for your buck?
In this post, I’ll share with you the considerations you need to make to determine what you really need, and how to find the right PR expertise.
Before Hiring a PR Partner
Before you work with a PR partner, make sure to clarify your:
What do you want to accomplish through PR? How do you want to position your company in the market? How do you want to be perceived?
Assess the newsworthiness of your products, services, and programs. Be realistic with what you expect from PR. It isn’t a magic wand that will make your products a bestseller.
How much can you allocate for PR? Many companies think of PR as a one-off expense to launch a major product or service, but a sustained effort over at least six months is really what will build momentum. Figuring out an overall budget will determine which PR activities can be implemented, and which will have to wait.
PR Consultant vs. PR Agency
When you’re ready to outsource your PR, you have two choices. You can work with either a PR consultant or a full service PR agency. Either one can meet your PR needs. It all depends on what you want to accomplish and what resources you have.
A PR consultant is for you if you’re just getting started. PR consultants are generally less expensive than a full service PR agency.
PR consultants are great if have specific projects you want to hand off. That way, their deliverables and outputs are concrete. You’ll be able to monitor their progress easily and tell if they’re meeting their milestones.
On the other hand, consultants tend to be generalists. They can do pretty much any task involved in PR. However, they may not have the strengths you need.
For example, a PR consultant may be a good writer but not strong in media relations, picking up the phone and pitching to an editor. They may not know how to train you or your spokespersons to face the camera for an interview. Or they may not be up-to-date on how to use social media for PR.
Contrast this with a PR agency, which is made up of a pool of people. That translates to a pool of different talents, each of which can be tapped to address your particular needs. The writer will write your press releases. The media relations person will pitch journalists. The trainer will train your spokespersons, and the strategist will sit down with you to plot your PR campaign.
Also, PR consultants generally have less resources than agencies. As an example, my technology PR agency, Cross Border, invests over $7,000 a year for a media database so we can quickly put together media lists and editorial calendars for clients. Not all solo PR consultants can afford this.
Finally, because most consultants are doing business solo, when your consultant goes on vacation, so does your PR. Or if they land big clients, they can easily get swamped and drop the ball on smaller clients (which could be you).
On the other hand, a PR agency can easily pull in additional staff and consultants to keep the momentum going for all its clients.
How to Choose A PR Agency
If you’ve decided to work with a PR agency, here are things to consider:
Find out who the senior and junior members of the PR team are. Who make up the team, and what are their responsibilities? Will the team be big enough to service your needs now, and as your company grows?
The team members should also be people you’re comfortable with, people you like and trust. You’ll be working very closely with them, telling them the most intimate details of your company and product. So choose the agency with people you like and enjoy being with.
It’s always an advantage when the agency is already familiar with your industry. Ideally they have a good combination of strengths, experience, and expertise so they can hit the ground running with all your PR initiatives.
A good PR agency will have a proven track record. Talk to past and present clients to find out what the agency’s working ethics and style are, whether they meet their deliverables and bring a good ROI.
- Long-term vs. Project Basis
Whether you’ll put an agency on long-term retainer, or hire them on a project by project basis, largely depends on your goals.
On a per-project basis, you can complete existing projects, and carry out specific, time-limited PR programs within a predetermined budget.
If you have the resources and ability to plan for the long term, then it pays to have the same team working with you, from strategic planning to execution. With this arrangement, you’ll also have the flexibility to take advantage of PR opportunities you may not have anticipated.
Choosing the PR professional for your business is an important decision. Think of the key points I provided in this post, but also follow your gut. When it comes to PR pros, you have plenty to choose from. Take your time, ask all the questions you have, and go with the one who gives you the most confidence.
Are you currently working with a PR professional, whether a consultant or an agency? If so, how did you choose whom to work with?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in choosing a PR professional. Tell us about it in the comments below.
Image by Tracy Hunter
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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