Hiring someone to help with your publicity is a big decision. You’ve got to go off of countless testimonials and websites to try and find the best option for your business. From those who don’t have experience working with PR agencies to those who do, the process can be incredibly challenging. And let’s face it: your company is making a huge financial investment in whatever option you decide on, so it’s important that you try to do it right the first time.
Here are five questions to ask a publicist or PR agency before hiring them to ensure you pick the right option the first time around.
1. What’s your experience?
First and foremost, it’s crucial that before you start a working relationship with a publicist or PR agency, you ask them what their track record is. While those publicists with a couple of years less experience might still do just as good of a job as people who’ve been around for decades, it’s important that you inquire into where in PR they’ve spent their time and in what position.
Your business will probably benefit from hiring someone who has worked with businesses like yours before. If you find one that matches up with you, feel free to ask about results from previous campaigns with related clients, as that will give you a general idea of what to expect from your work with them. Furthermore, if you’re considering hiring a PR agency, be sure to ask if employees who have worked on previous accounts are still working for the firm. By just asking, you might be able to work with people who have a significant amount of experience in PR related to companies like yours.
2. Where do you see my brand being placed?
Honest communication between you and your PR provider is a must. Upfront, you should ask them what publications they see your business being placed in. Don’t confuse their promises of “nationwide coverage” or “the most well-regarded news sources” as answers to this question. Be sure to get names of actual publications that you feel are relevant to your business and that you would be happy getting into. The more honest they are, the better your relationship and results are likely to be with them.
3. Do we need to sign a long-term agreement?
Investing in PR is a big financial commitment, and it’s important that you figure out from the start what type of agreement you will be in. With the power of online media, it’s best to look for one-term deals, as that’s where you can often find the sales and leads that you’re looking for but with less pressure on the outcome. Because news cycles are much quicker, you can often ask an agency if you can test the waters with them by doing one story with them and seeing how it goes from there. If you end up developing a long relationship with a publicist or PR firm, that’s when you’re more likely to see longer and more robust deals.
4. What information do you need from me?
Generally speaking, anyone working in PR will ask you about your story first and what makes it unique. While, yes, they only really work with your story in writing, they might also need other things down the road that it would be worthwhile inquiring about upfront.
For example, if you’re after an entrepreneur success story, your agency would need evidence of your financial success. That doesn’t mean pictures of expensive cars or houses; that means actual financial documents that prove you’re selling a legitimate story. Furthermore, a PR firm might ask for picture documentation as that could significantly aid your story, so inquiring into their potential needs would be incredibly useful.
5. When can I expect to start reaping the benefits of PR?
The most difficult thing about PR is how results can be inconsistent in their timing. Online news sites have shorter lead times, so you might see your story up within a few days of submitting it. With print media, you’d have to wait significantly longer as newspapers and magazines often start working on issues from weeks to months in advance depending on the publication.
It’s important that you ask whomever you’re working with what the expected timeline is at all stages of development, as sometimes things can speed up or slow down because of any number of factors. Maybe a story similar to yours has just gotten national attention and you might need to wait a few weeks before posting that story or you might have to try something else. Whatever the reason, be sure to constantly and respectfully ask about how things are coming along and if they need anything from you.
Starting to work on your PR with an outside source is a huge commitment and you shouldn’t take it lightly. The performance of your business is incredibly important and you’ve gotta make sure that you choose to work with people who want to help you achieve your goals and make sure that your business can reap the benefits of publicity. With these five questions, you’ll be able to make sure that you’re working with the right people from the get-go.