Ask These Questions Before Hiring a PR Firm
Decades ago, PR professionals had a glamorous job – they were the conduits between corporate America and the media.
Today, you can use Twitter to break news.
Yet many startup companies and companies looking to grow still end up hiring a PR firm. While a PR firm can’t force the media to use your press releases, they can ensure that the media sees and hears your message. If that message is strong enough, it’s more likely to get coverage.
Evaluate the Costs and Benefits of Hiring a PR Firm
Most PR firms have strong relationships with reporters that make it easier to get heard. That’s the main value that a PR firm provides nowadays – personal relationships with journalists. The Internet, however, has made it easy to directly connect with journalists, so PR firms are no longer a vital part of generating media coverage.
Should you handle your publicity in-house or hire a PR agency? Consider these five questions:
- Do you have the necessary resources to conduct media research, establish contacts and distribute materials?
- Do you have the writing capabilities to put together a media release or feature pitch that will get picked up by the media?
- Do you have the expertise and time to get it done effectively with your current workload?
- Do you have staff to assist you with the campaign?
- Is publicity important enough to allocate budget to a PR agency? The cost will depend on your size and your market, but monthly retainers for reputable PR firms in the US generally start at around $5,000/month for a small firm in the middle of the country and go up from there.
If you responded with two or more “no” answers, you should probably keep your publicity generation in house.
Additional Considerations Before Hiring a PR Firm
Most big PR agencies are expensive, and not all PR firms and consultants are good. Beware of PR professionals who pitch themselves as complete marketing gurus; some may have a broad range of skills, but those who don’t will simply drain your marketing budget.
Before making your final decision, it’s a good idea to list the pros and cons and consider a cost/benefit evaluation. We’ve listed numerous cons already. Here are some pros:
- Good PR agencies and professional consultants should have a strong media Rolodex and be able to get your stories in front of the people that matter.
- If you’re not comfortable generating story ideas, your PR firm should be able to create them for you.
- Your PR firm will write and distribute your press releases.
- A good PR firm can give you credibility in the marketplace.
If you’re a startup, however, consider Guy Kawasaki’s 10 reasons not to hire a PR firm. (There are plenty of good tools available for managing your own publicity campaign – including Qlutch.)
Now, list the pros and cons of using a PR firm and evaluate the benefits and costs. If you choose to engage a PR firm, make sure that you’re both clear on their monthly responsibilities and scope of work.