BLOG: Ten Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a PR Firm

Not so long ago, the big question for corporate executives and marketing departments was: should we hire a PR firm? Those days are gone. Today, the PR question is: what kind of firm do we need to hire for our precise needs?

Executives serious about their companies’ products, services, brand equity, customer loyalty, and reputation, know public relations is a must-have for ongoing success. This holds true at national and international marketing levels, and in many instances at the local level.

Smart, strategic PR campaigns are as vital to the success of A-list celebrities and rock stars as they are to the success of baby food companies and obscure widgets that fit into technology products.

What do you need to know when you are researching and interviewing for public relations services? The following 10 points (five now, five later) will help ensure you to hire a great PR firm matched to your needs. (Of course, you can also adopt these questions to help you hire an in-house PR person or a PR consultant.)

1. The PR firm must have the necessary skills and experience to provide strategy. Yep, strategy folks. If you don’t start with a PR strategy, PR efforts for your company won’t make much difference. Without a “strategy”, even if by chance you get some good (non-strategic) PR – you need to question whether the ‘press’ was timed correctly, positioned properly and messaged appropriately to move the needle for your company. You might find the whole PR effort was just a waste of effort because it didn’t have any noticeable impact on your business objectives.

2. The firm needs to know how to target an audience. You need your PR team to identify who to target for communications; who are the folks that can best help influence the outcome of success or lack thereof for your business. Keep this in mind – the audience for PR may or may not be the same constituents targeted in other elements of your companies’ marketing efforts.  A seasoned PR pro will understand this and can help you identify the right audiences.

3. Beware the old bait and switch. This remains, often inadvertently, a continued management method of PR firms. You sign up with a glimmering, smooth-talking VP who could sell combs to bald people. You are very impressed by him or her…but, after the service agreement is signed, you rarely see or hear from that person. Instead, you get barraged by emails and phone calls from interns cutting their teeth on their first PR account – your business!  I love interns. I started as a PR intern years back – but the success I achieved then was from senior PR executive mentors – and it is these senior PR pros you want managing your account and to be available to you on a regular basis.

4. Make sure the firm has the right experience for your niche and vertical needs. Check its credentials — find out which companies it has worked for, what products and services it has done PR for, and which journalists it knows in your space. Is the firm experienced in multiple vertical market sectors or only one or two? For example if you have a technology product that will have both business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial applications, you’ll want a firm that can straddle both sectors with authority and expertise.

5. Ask about the firm’s success record. Has the firm accomplished basic PR goals? Demand specifics about companies, products and services. Often, a simple round-up of placed media samples can tell you a lot!

To read 6 to 10, email me at … and I’ll tell you when they go live. [email protected].