February 5, 2016

What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Public Relations Firm

By: Jennifer Borba von Stauffenberg 

Take Note: If you are hiring a public relations firm, then make sure you know what to expect before signing your name on the line. Most people assume they need to know about media relationships and light up when words like “authenticity” and “strategy” are mentioned. The truth is that those things are important, but there’s so much more you need to know in order to make the right decision.

  1. Lock in your visual brand elements. There is one stop you need to make before meeting with a public relations firm and that is with a branding and design expert. Many agencies aren’t going to stop you from signing a contract before these are done and you will end up paying both firms while the public relations firm sits waiting to take action. At the very least, you need a solid website (with a logo!) before we can send anything to the press.
  2. Media relations and social media are best when done together. If you are not approaching your communication strategy as an integrated approach, you are missing the mark. While it generally starts with a media hit, stories go viral because the media outlets share them on their social pages and incorporate trending hashtags.
  3. Do you share the same values? You want to make sure you have professional chemistry. After all, this is a team that will be sharing your message with the world.
  4. Social media is a full-time job. Having a designated social media team makes it possible to stay current with the latest trends and technology, all while keeping up with consistent content and targeted engagement. Plus, media relations and social media are separate disciplines – both require specialization.
  5. Event planning is not the same thing as public relations. If events are part of your needs, be sure they have an event planning expert on their team or excellent partners, and identify how many events they do (what vendors they work with, etc.). The benefit of working with experts in any field is that they already have the relationships in place.
  6. Ask for proof. Any successful agency should have a strong portfolio of media coverage. If your wish list is O Magazine and the TODAY Show, ask for examples of those media hits.
  7. Check their work. You would never hire an employee without calling references or being referred, so you should ask for the same from an agency. You want to work with someone who has a lot of happy clients.
  8. Look at the big picture. When you are making your decision to add public relations, make sure you are setting a budget that is sustainable long-term. Reputable agencies will stand behind the fact that you have to commit to at least four months for a local campaign to see results and six to eight months for a national campaign.
  9. Trust your feelings. You need to like the team. These are people who have to vibe with your culture or else there will be a major disconnect.
  10. Understand that you get what you pay for. If someone is offering you services at a fraction of what other agencies are quoting, there are two ways to see this: 1) They are desperate for the money or 2) They don’t get what it takes to actually do the job. In some very unique cases, you might have really inspired someone with what you are doing and they genuinely want to help. You will have to dig in order to know what you are getting into.
  11. Get critical. Ask some challenging critical thinking questions to learn how they strategize.

When in doubt, go with your gut. When it pertains to new business at Olive PR Solutions, we always say: “If it’s not 100%, it’s a no.”