How to hire a public relations firm
Hiring a public relations firm is an important decision that should not be taken lightly, and finding the right one takes time and effort.
People and companies who have not previously engaged a PR firm are often unaware of the investments in time and money that come with such an effort, and are often surprised at the groundwork that needs to be done even before the first interview. A media communications program is a huge effort, so make sure you made the right decision before making this commitment.
Here are some important points to consider when starting this process.
The most important thing anyone can do before bringing an agency or consultant into the fold is to shop around. Yes, that's right, talk to more than one firm. I advise all potential clients I talk with to speak to at least three or four firms before making a decision. A public relations firm is the gatekeeper of your personal and/or brand reputation. Your name is the most important thing you have and, if you are just starting out, you only get one product launch. Make sure you do it right.
Though this advice has sometimes caused me to lose potential business, it was probably for the better because it may not have been a great fit for reasons that would only have become apparent after we started working together. And, I often stay in touch with these firms and clients because we get along on a personal level. I always want them to succeed and am happy to cheer them on and congratulate their successes.
A lot of times, people walk into new business meetings expecting to find themselves in the New York Times or on national television shortly after signing on with a new agency. While that can sometimes happen, especially if you are an established brand or personality, this is not the norm. Any agency guaranteeing you this or other results is doing so just to get you in the door and make a quick buck.
The reality is that even a former journalist like myself with strong relationships across all kinds of newsrooms, conferences and other mediums cannot guarantee coverage of clients; especially top-tier outlets. Though it has been our experience (yes there's more than just me) that we earn significant, impactful coverage for clients, news cycles change and priorities shift. Not all interviews lead to coverage, and some even get cancelled at the last minute. This happens more than many people realize.
Trust the process
This is especially important for new companies and startups. It takes time to build a brand and bolster a spokesperson's share of mind in their chosen vertical. Also, if you have not previously done media, some interviews will go better than others. There will be growing pains.
A great example of this is a client of ours that started literally from scratch. The founder had done no media prior to engaging RGPR, and we put together a plan that started out with introductory conversations and interviews with smaller publications before gradually building up confidence and familiarity with how to give a good interview. Over time, the stakes were raised and within four months of starting outreach this person went from a clean slate to appearing on national TV, in the New York Times and being featured in countless publications including Bloomberg, Forbes, Business Insider and more.
A good media consultant will never, ever promise you the world and then blindly pitch you to top outlets because you tell them to. Instead, a plan will be put together that puts you in a position to succeed when those opportunities eventually arise.