How To Hire A PR Firm


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How To Hire A PR Firm

  1. 1. How to : Hire a Public R elations Firm
  2. 2. There’s an old saying that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. 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 4. Proposals 5. The selection
  3. 3. 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 these areas.
  4. 4. 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.) • Advertising • Design 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 experts. 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.
  5. 5. Step 2: The Search Launch your search You can: • 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: • Size • Experience • Areas of specialty (real estate, high tech, in-store promotions, etc.) • Clients (and possible client conflicts) • Personnel • Services offered Ask for samples Finally, ask for samples of campaigns similar to the one you want to run and the success of each.
  6. 6. Step 3: The Pr sentation e 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. Strategies • 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? Account team • 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? Media expertise • 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? Content • 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)
  7. 7. Resources • 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.? Accountability 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 publications. 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. Retainer fees • 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 termination? • 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?
  8. 8. 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 proposal. 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. Intangibles In any relationship there are certain intangibles that can make or break a relationship. Three you should consider are: Proactive • Does your account team constantly alert you to PR possibilities, or do they sit back and wait for you to say something? • Are they bulldogs about persistently hounding editors and others to make things happen, to get things done? • 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? Listening skills Do they truly listen, or are they too busy talking? Chemistry In any PR firm relationship, as in love, chemistry is everything. When all things are equal, go with your gut.
  9. 9. 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 949.470.0075