Our businesses are our babies and when we need help, we all feel a little vulnerable. So if you’re ready to hire a PR firm, then you should hire someone who is willing to run through a fire to rescue your baby. Well, not exactly but they should be willing to rescue you from bad PR situations and nurture your business along. How can you figure out who that person or firm is?
It’s Kinda Like Dating
Hiring a PR firm, actually hiring any outside contractor, is like dating in that you never know how someone will be after the courtship phase. Most people are on their best behavior when they meet someone new and that means you might not get a true sense of how they will work with you. Like dating, it’s always best to get a recommendation from someone you trust who can tell you the inside story of how the firm (or person) actually behaves. It’s also important to follow your gut and make sure you see the warning signs and are not blinded by reputation or fancy clients.
Questions to Ask & Traps to Avoid
Picking the right PR firm will be an important step in your company’s evolution. Consider the questions below as ones to ask to get to know a potential PR firm:
- Are You Ready for PR?: Before you go off and interview a firm, make sure you’re ready to hire someone.
- What do they know about your company? Directly ask them about your company to gauge if they understand what business you are in.
- Ask them 5 reasons they want to work with you: The five reasons test is a great way to see how much homework a firm has done on your company and what ideas they might have to make you successful.
- Can they commit to weekly company meetings? Team interaction is critical to a successful relationship with a PR firm and that starts with regular meetings to give status updates as well as discuss ideas.
- How will they communicate with the team? Communication is paramount and the way a firm communicates with clients says a lot about their working style. Is it open and loose or rigid and formal or spotty and confusing?
- Will they give you weekly reports? Weekly reports can be useful for metrics and status updates so that everything is documented and tracking to the metrics.
- Are they willing to come on site or go to a team offsite? Face time is important to build rapport. Some decisions are better made in person where ideas and strategies can be debated and discussed.
- How much of your staff time is required to manage them? Someone on your staff will need to be the interface to the firm, and it’s best to find out how much effort that will take.
I’m sure you can come up with many other questions to ask but I thought I would give you a few to get your mind thinking. When you listen to the responses, see if the answers are canned and can be the response for any old company. Again, trust your gut on this. Along with the questions above, there are also some traps to avoid when picking a firm and interacting with them. Those traps include:
- Don’t do PR by projects: It’s best to have a firm on retainer since then they are more part of the team. PR is not a one and done project. It’s a continuum that always needs care and feeding. With that said, you can have project-based events or campaigns but make sure you figure out the success metrics first.
- Set realistic metrics: Metrics are vital to set early since it will set the tone for the interactions and what will be expected over time. Some metrics to consider are: story coverage, social media reach, article placement, etc.
- Be realistic on coverage opportunities: PR is more art than science. Sure you can put out a press release but sometimes, coverage in the media can go through a dry spell. Knowing the reasons for the dry spell is important and your PR firm should be able to give you some insights and suggest innovative ideas to garner PR.
- Do check references: I’m shocked at how many companies don’t check references. Don’t check references at your own peril. It’s also wise to check back channel references.
At the end of the day, you want a firm that will cater to your needs and not just do what they always do. See if they are open to listening to your ideas and concerns. A good PR firm will be an extension of your team, and if you are not feeling that, then they are the wrong choice for you.
Thanks for coming on this journey. We hope you got a lot out of this series. We had a great time writing it.