There’s an old saying that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to
This is a myth.
Before the world can arrive at your doorstep it must ﬁrst know where the door is, how to
get there and why they should bother making the trip.
That is the reason for public relations.
Public relations is an investment
Over the course of a year you can expect to pay anywhere from $36,000 to $250,000 for
PR services. Therefore, it’s critical to hire an ﬁrm that can best help you achieve your goals.
As business guru Peter Drucker stated: “There are only two investments you can make
in your company: innovation and marketing. Everything else is an expense.”
PR is an investment.
The ﬁve steps to hiring a PR ﬁrm
1. Needs evaluation
2. The search
3. Meetings/presentations and evaluations
5. The selection
Step 1: Needs assessment
Large ﬁrm or small?
If you have a modest budget, if you have a limited number of targeted customers, or if you have a
speciﬁc geographic region, a small ﬁrm should sufﬁce.
However, if you need a strong national or international presence, someone who has extensive
experience dealing with foreign companies, a large ﬁrm with multiple locations around the world is required.
Know your budget
Like it or not, PR is a direct result of budget. The more money you have, the more publicity you can
obtain to persuade, sell and educate.
PR agencies typically require a monthly retainer. A bare-bones PR campaign may begin at $3,000 a
month while a full-ﬂedged campaign can cost $10,000 a month or more.
If you are a small-to-medium business (SMB), your monthly costs will range between $3,000-$7,500,
depending on the exposure you need and the media to be targeted.
Be sure to let prospective PR agencies know your ballpark budget so they don’t waste their time and
yours discussing strategies you can’t afford.
Assess your objectives
What do you want to accomplish?
• Establish your brand locally, regionally, nationally, internationally?
• Attract venture capital or investments?
• Manage investor relations?
• Establish strategic partnerships?
• Dissipate a crisis?
• Educate people about a breakthrough product or service?
• Generate leads?
• Establish your company as an industry leader that reporters call to get your opinions?
• Increase sales?
• Differentiate your company from the competition?
Not all PR agencies are equipped to handle all of the above. If you require investor relations, crisis
management or personal publicity, for example, you might want to consider agencies that specialize in
Determine what services you need
Have an idea of what services you want, even though your list may change. Services can include:
• Press releases
• White papers
• Feature articles (ghostwritten with your byline)
• Case studies
• Speaking engagements
• Face-to-face meetings with analysts and media professionals
• Book tours
• Appearances on major TV news/entertainment shows
• Web content
• Direct mail
• Trade show assistance
• Social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Who will be your point person?
Few things are more frustrating for a PR ﬁrm than dealing with an executive who’s never available.
Determine ahead of time who will be in charge of company-ﬁrm communications. This is someone
who can quickly get information, who can arrange for “brain dump” meetings, who can meet with industry
Also determine who will be the company spokesperson—the one editors will call, the one who will
speak at conferences, symposia, trade shows, panels and reporters.
Step 2: The Search
Launch your search
• Ask people you trust in your company and/or industry for recommendations.
• Meet prospective PR specialists at networking functions.
• Look in the yellow pages.
• Do an online search for “PR ﬁrms in [your city].
• Respond to direct mail or cold calls.
Check out candidates online
What is their:
• Areas of specialty (real estate, high tech, in-store promotions, etc.)
• Clients (and possible client conﬂicts)
• Services offered
Ask for samples
Finally, ask for samples of campaigns similar to the one you want to run and the success of each.
Step 3: The Pr sentation
Invite the selected candidates to present to your company. If you have a lot of candidates, spread them
out. It can be very tiring listening to ﬁve presentations a day, and you tend to forget who said what.
• What strategies they suggest for getting media attention for your company.
• How they plan to leverage or establish your branding and positioning.
• What they propose for your uniﬁed message that underlies all your PR efforts.
• How will they implement their strategies?
• Who will work on your account? Will it be the team making the presentation? Or some junior executives
learning their craft on your dime? Will it be a single person or a team of people?
• Will there be a dedicated account rep just for your account? (This is only applicable in large agencies.)
• Will you be an important account or one so small you’re relegated to the “B Team”?
• What is their expertise in your ﬁeld?
• If they’re not experts, how long will it take to get up to speed?
• What system is in place to keep you constantly informed of what’s happening?
• Do they have personal relationships with leading editors, bloggers and experts in your industry?
• Do they have a good track record for getting PR placed?
• Can they quickly amass a list of inﬂuential persons in an industry they may not be quite familiar with?
• Is the writer on staff or will the ﬁrm use one or more freelancers? (Freelancers may be preferred if there
is specialized copy like an annual report.)
• What are the writer’s qualiﬁcations, experience, areas of expertise?
• Can the writer change styles to meet the unique needs of various media? (a feature article is not a
brochure; a white paper is not web content)
• Do they have specialized media lists for your industry?
• Do they have databases that inform them well ahead of time of upcoming trade shows, special industry
publications covering your industry and critical events such as conferences and symposia?
• Can they develop a schedule of speaking engagements if you need them?
• Do they have a clipping service if you want one?
• Do they offer event planning for product launches, open houses, etc.?
The hard reality is that much of a PR effort cannot be quantiﬁed. For example, what is your ROI on
a press release? It’s impossible to say. All a PR ﬁrm can do is document how many “hits” it got and in what
Other indications of success are spikes in web visits and increased downloads of articles/white papers.
Media that can be measured include direct mail, trade show leads, special offers, demonstrations.
• What are their typical fees for what you want to accomplish?
• How long is the retainer period? Thirty days, 90 days, six months? And what are the penalties for early
• What is included in the retainer…and not included?
• Do they charge for incidentals such as long-distance phone calls, photocopying, meetings, travel time?
(You are expected to pay for travel expenses above and beyond the ﬁrm may incur, such as travel/
lodging to attend media tours, conferences and trade shows).
• Do they offer ala carte services you only need occasionally such as trade support or a feature article for
once speciﬁc issue of a trade magazine, and what are those fees?
• Are you paying for ﬁrm personnel you may not use, such as a trafﬁc manager, supervisors, accountants
and others who are part of the ﬁrm overhead?
Step 4: Proposals
By this time you should have winnowed your selections down to two or three. Now it’s time to ask for a
The proposal should cover everything you’ve agreed to in your prior meetings: retainer fees and the
services they include, the account team, fees for additional services if you should need them, length of the
retainer period, and special conditions such as a trial period, and penalties for early termination.
In any relationship there are certain intangibles that can make or break a relationship. Three you should
• Does your account team constantly alert you to PR possibilities, or do they sit back and wait for you to
• Are they bulldogs about persistently hounding editors and others to make things happen, to get things
• Do they push you to ensure all deadlines are met?
• Are they constantly looking for new ways to help your company?
• Do they keep you informed by sending key articles and other materials you might otherwise overlook?
• Do they constantly scour press wires, blogs, search engines and other media for mentions of your
company and alert you about how your brand is being perceived?
Do they truly listen, or are they too busy talking?
In any PR ﬁrm relationship, as in love, chemistry is everything. When all things are equal, go with your
Step 5: Selection
By now it should be clear which ﬁrm offers the services, personnel and fees you like. If you choose wisely, you
should have a long and proﬁtable relationship.
Daly-Swartz Public Relations
23591 El Toro Rd., #215
Lake Forest, CA 92630