Good publicity and earned media lead to increased exposure and a growing reputation for your brand. This piques your target audience’s attention and allows you to quickly gain their trust. In turn, you can forge a mutually beneficial relationship, where customers continue to support your business as long as you continue providing value.
Of course, generating such publicity is no easy feat. And neither is maintaining or improving your brand’s reputation once you’ve become well-known in your industry. For growing businesses with smaller teams and tighter budgets, creating a dedicated internal PR department is likely out of the question.
While it’s not impossible to adopt a do-it-yourself approach to public relations, it’s fairly easy for such initiatives to go off the rails. With so much else going on, the added responsibility of creating consistent public relations initiatives can spread your team too thin.
Your third option is hiring an established PR firm to help manage your brand’s growing reputation. In hiring an outside firm, a team of experienced and dedicated people will help you navigate all things related to public relations and public image.
Finding the PR firm that’s right for your business isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. Before you commit to a specific firm, you need to answer the following questions.
What are you hoping to accomplish for your brand?
Above all else, you should have a solid reason for focusing on PR. Whether you’re aiming to generate brand awareness, improve your reputation, or spur sales (or all three), it’s important to set SMART goals for your PR initiatives right from the start. This will help you focus on finding the firm whose services most align with your specific needs.
You should also tie PR-related KPIs to your overarching business goals. While a general assumption is that good publicity will lead to business growth, it’s vital to know this growth will be achieved. By defining your PR- and business-related goals in specific and measurable terms, you’ll better assess which PR firm is best for business.
Do you have the capacity to work with a PR firm?
Even the smallest PR firms typically charge clients anywhere from $250-300 an hour. Depending on your business’s financial situation, this additional cost may eat into too big a portion of your overall marketing budget.
It’s worth noting that it generally takes more than a single month to gain traction from your PR initiatives. You’ll typically need to commit to a long-term contract—accruing additional expenses along the way.
The other area of concern in terms of capacity is your organization’s ability to effectively collaborate with your PR firm. While the firm will take on most of your PR-related duties, they’ll still rely on your team to deliver pertinent data and information, develop and improve content, and maintain overall alignment between both parties.
Ask yourself two questions here:
- Does my business have the capital to retain the PR firm that will allow us to reach our business goals?
- Do we have the manpower and resources to empower the PR firm to perform to their highest potential?
If you’re not yet prepared to work with the PR firm that’s best for your business, take the DIY approach or wait until you can build up your resources.
Is your organization ready for additional publicity?
Every business owner dreams of getting picked up by the right influencer or publication. In these dreams, the success that follows is basically effortless. After your brand goes viral, you just have to put your business on cruise control and ride out the wave, right? Nope.
If the value you provide your customers doesn’t match (or exceed) the bar set by your PR initiatives, it can do more harm than good to your brand’s overall reputation. Secondly, you need to be prepared for the potential influx of business once your PR initiatives are live. Failure to keep up with increased demand will likewise damage your reputation.
Finally, you need a game plan for “what’s next” once PR initiatives are in full swing. This goes for all areas of your operation, from providing additional value to your customers to expanding your PR- and marketing-related initiatives.
The purpose of asking these questions is to understand what needs to be done to maximize the value you get from the PR firm’s efforts.
How does the firm measure and define success?
You don’t want a firm that either a) promises to nail your sought-after results no matter what, or b) promises to nail what they consider to be successful results.
Rather, choose a firm that:
- Takes your marketing and business goals into consideration above all else
- While considering your goals, uses their experience and expertise to formulate a plan
It’s not just that your PR firm’s goals should match your own. It’s that your firm should understand your current and future goals and get laser-focused on helping you reach them.
How do the firm’s services align with your needs?
Though broadly-defined, you need to know what you’ll receive in return for those costly retainer fees. The last thing you want to hear from the PR firm is “we can offer those services, but it’ll cost you extra.”
Consider how the firm will meet your organization’s more “intangible” needs as well:
- Will you have a steady contact person throughout your relationship with the firm? Or will your account be moved from agent to agent?
- Does the firm provide various options and opportunities for you to engage with their team? Or are communication and collaboration more rigidly set?
- Do you have the option of amending your agreement with the firm over time? Or are their contract terms too rigid to account for your fluctuating future needs?
Your PR firm should allow for scalability in terms of the services it provides. Often, firms will offer tiered services for businesses at various growth stages—ideal for companies looking for a firm to work with over a sustained period of time.
What experience does the firm have with brands in your niche?
Your PR firm should also be able to demonstrate knowledge of your niche. Look for companies that specialize in helping brands in your industry. Dig into any content they offer that can give you a better idea of their relevant experience.
Look into any social proof revolving around potential PR firms. From additional on-site content (such as case studies and client reviews) to third-party mentions of the firm (via social media, forums, etc.), you should be able to get an idea of how they’ve treated your peers.
While any PR firm worth its salt should be able to assimilate into any niche, it’s best to find one that has extensive experience in your industry.
What does the firm’s process look like?
Your chosen PR firm should be just as focused on their processes as they are on obtaining results. Moreover, the firm should be transparent and comprehensive when:
- Explaining what the team will be doing and why it will be beneficial for your business
- Communicating what the firm will need from your team in order to succeed
- Providing a timeline for rollout of future initiatives and setting expectations regarding the results
It’s vital for your team and your PR firm to stay on the same page at all times. In turn, you’ll both be able to quickly capitalize on any opportunity that comes your way—ultimately leading to major growth for your business.