by Lisa O’Neill
If you’ve been thinking about bringing on a PR firm, but not certain if it’s the right time, much less how to find a best-fit partner, here are some words of wisdom that should help.
As an owner of a PR firm, and working in the field for more than 25 years, I know that PR is a smart investment for many businesses and organizations, regardless of size. I’ve seen the results and understand that there are certain communications objectives that only public relations can deliver. However, strategic, results-driven public relations takes time, consistent effort and dollars. Make sure you understand what PR can deliver versus other marketing tools such as digital marketing, advertising and event marketing. That said, the lines are blurring every day in the PR field, and we often either spearhead or coordinate efforts on everything from social media and event marketing to cause marketing and email campaigns.
Here are a few key indicators that your business is ready to bring in outside PR expertise:
- You have time. This usually translates into a designated in-house individual, preferably a senior-level communications pro, to manage the PR person or firm. Effective PR requires consistency and frequency over time. We need regular care and feeding, and can only produce when in a transparent, collaborative environment.
- You have a budget. This is part of your marketing toolkit and, although usually more affordable than paid advertising, think of the budget in paid advertising terms. I can’t tell you how many businesses think that they can generate results from just a few thousand dollars here and there. That may be OK if all you want is a single press release and the follow up time it requires, but you’ll never get the train too far out of the station. Most PR firms work on monthly retainers; sometimes we operate on project fees for a big event. Large firms can charge $15K per month or higher; mid-sized firms with mid-sized clients may hover around $8-12K per month. Less for small firms and small businesses, including non-profits. Although, even nonprofits should have a budget unless they have formed a sponsorship or pro-bono arrangement with a PR firm.
- You’re launching a new business, service, product and you have the time and the budget to spread the word over the course of a year (minimum). That means, you will need to work with your PR representative to develop a calendar slotted with feature/trend story ideas, news announcements, bylined articles, special events, etc to keep the news pipeline filled.
- Your business has a proven track record with success stories and/or metrics to share. A big chunk of public relations involves media relations. Media, and even influencers (aka top bloggers and social media stars), require real news or newsworthy stories to tell.
- You understand that PR will build credibility and awareness; building sales is an indirect result. Your firm could place a killer, two-page story in your industry trade or monthly city magazine, but that does not necessarily equal a bump in sales. It WILL increase brand awareness, especially as these placements continue; and it can make the sales process more fruitful if properly leveraged.
- You want PR for the right reasons. In a nutshell, don’t seek a PR firm to make you or your business a household name. As I read in an article in The Observer, “Ego-driven PR is not a strategy; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money.” Your PR firm can drive attention and build recognition for your brand, as well as set you apart from the competition. Fame is fleeting and often earned for the wrong reasons. Although, if you find yourself with the wrong kind of fame, PR is your best course of reaction via crisis communications.
- You have patience. It’s a fact: public relations is a marathon versus a sprint. There’s no magic formula on length of time or investment required, so find an experienced, ethical PR representative with knowledge of your industry along with a seasoned external perspective who will be a trusted partner.
We base our services using a very customized approach tailored to your specific needs. If these indicators hit the nail on the head and you’ve decided that PR might be something to consider, we’re happy to answer any questions. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 512-761-4567.