Having been in PR for so long, I have had more potential clients than I can count. In fact if all of the people who approached me to undertake their PR actually became my clients I would be a millionaire by now! It is exciting to receive interest in my work but there does come a point when becomes frustrating. Why? Because all too often prospects are simply not prepared when they approach PR agency or want to hire a publicist with regards to knowing what it is they really want.
If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur here are just a few questions that you should be asking before you approach anyone to undertake your PR.
Do you actually know what Public Relations is? I know this might sound simple but it still surprises me that so few people have a basic understanding of what public relations is. I have written pieces and even made videos about public relations so I won’t explain it here again but I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to gain an understanding of PR. Once you understand what it is then you will be clear about how it can make an impact in your business or even on your own personal brand on a strategic level.
Do you have a budget? Publicists and PR agencies are not free to hire, they charge money, you might wonder why I have written this but you would be surprised how many requests to undertake free work I have received in the past. So before you approach a publicist please set aside some funds ready to assign their services, this means that you will need to do some research and compare and contrast. Be respectful of time and capacity, if you really want to work with an agency but they are out of your budget you will need to be mindful of how you choose to negotiate with them, think about how you would want someone to negotiate with you with regards to pricing. Also do not judge an agency on price alone, you really need to dig deep and check to see if the publicist you want to pay will be the best value for you. That means different things to different people and it does not just boil down to cost alone, it can be reflected in your overall experience of working with them and how they engage with you, what further value do they add to your business? Above all else be ready to invest in a quality service so have a budget ready.
Have you done your background research? I have a very good business website and yet people will still contact me with questions that could easily be answered if they just took 10-15 minutes to browse through my business website and even business social media pages. It saves so much time and prevents awkward moments if you do as much background research on the PR agency or publicist that you are looking to engage with as possible. This also means reading testimonials and paying attention to how they work which will enable you to see if they might work well with you. After you have done your research then of course send that email, make that call and if you need to; request a meeting. This also works even if a PR agency or publicist approaches you or pitches to you for your business, make sure you undertake the necessary research to see if they will be a good fit for you before you proceed.
Can you do the PR yourself? This might seem strange but realistically you might not have the money to pay a retainer (or even a one off fee) to hire a publicist. That does not mean that you should take PR less seriously, in fact if that is the case then you need to learn how to do your own PR and take it just as seriously as if you were hiring an external party. If you have a team then you should try to include the team in the strategic PR plans of the business. Attend seminars, business books, eGuides or book affordable consultation sessions which will empower you to do your own PR.
Is your business ready to incorporate PR? I believe that all businesses should have PR as part of their business plans, from pre-launch to the every day management of the business. Have an internal and external communications plans, understand media relations, have a crisis communications strategy in place before a crisis happens and more – if you really want to make an impact with PR. However there are a few factors that businesses much keep in mind when it comes to readiness to incorporate public relations. A very good example is the media relations aspect of PR which many small businesses and start-ups use to enhance credibility and increase brand awareness. If a business is not ready internally with solid logistics and infrastructure when they receive major media coverage they might not be prepared for any sudden spikes in orders. This could have a negative impact on a brand, particularly in the social media age in which customers and clients can amplify mistakes leading to a PR disaster. So really take the time to think about whether your business is ready.
I understand that hiring any service provider can be a big investment and so it really is important to take the time to prepare yourself before you consider hiring a publicist so that you don’t waste your time and theirs. Hopefully these questions will help you make the right choices so that your business and brand continue to thrive.