You should consider doing your own publicity first. You will make the best spokesperson for your product or service. Also, if you try to do your own publicity, even for a few days, it will give you a much clearer insight into the process and you’ll be in a much better position to understand what to look for and how to work with an outside PR firm. However, if you are extremely busy or uneasy about certain aspects of handling your own PR, you can hire a freelance PR specialist or a PR firm.

PR firms typically charge either an hourly or a monthly rate. And they won’t guarantee success, no matter how many hours they bill you for! Some PR firms have extensive client lists, and if you aren’t a top account, you won’t be a priority. Try to find out how important a client you will be. It could make or break the success of your publicity efforts.

The PR Firm Is Bidding for Your Business, Not the Other Way Around

Before you set up meetings to interview potential PR representatives, do a reference check. Ask individuals in your business community whom they recommend. Once you have made up a list of firms you are interested in, set up meetings so that the firm can “pitch your account.” Remember that you have control over the meeting because the PR firm is bidding for your business.

It is the PR firm’s job to try to sell you on its ability to effectively deliver your message to the right people. During the meeting, you need to articulate your objectives in an up-front manner. Have a list of issues and questions prepared that focuses on your agenda. Listen carefully to their “pitch” and the answers they give to your questions.

Questions to Ask a Potential PR Firm

  • Who will be working on your account—a senior account executive, a junior account executive, or an entry-level trainee?
  • How will you and the PR firm work together as a team?
  • Who will be responsible for copy?
  • Who is on the firm’s media contact list?
  • What have been their most effective recent media placements?
  • What success have they had in creating publicity campaigns for businesses such as yours?

Don’t leave the meeting until you feel that all of your questions and concerns have been answered. If you do decide to hire a PR firm, you must stay on top of it and keep a proactive relationship in motion. This will ensure that your PR needs are met to your satisfaction.

I have hired many PR firms over the years, and I am usually frustrated with the results. But there have been some wonderful exceptions. Some are good! Some are great! But getting PR is a difficult, iffy process. And especially if you are not going to spend a ton of money with a PR firm, they are unlikely to put their best people on your account.

Before you take on a PR firm, try to clarify your objectives and what you think is realistic. If you think, for example, that your new teddy bear product is going to be featured on a major morning network television show, you don’t need a publicist: you need a relative on the show. But maybe for your new Mexican restaurant your goal for your PR firm is to get featured in one local newspaper, on three local websites, have an interview on one radio station, and maybe get featured on one local TV station.

A good PR firm will not just help you get publicity; they should work with you in getting publicity that really helps bring sales to your business.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Try to develop a realistic set of publicity objectives.
  • Work up a list of questions for potential PR firms.
  • Clarify where you will fall in the pecking order.