PR, public relations, you may have heard the term before. Through TV, movies and social knowledge you may actually have an idea of what “PR people” do. But have you ever thought of hiring one for you or your business? The fact is that like most professionals, PR has its place in the business world. When implemented correctly, public relations can lead to the success of a product launch, or it can diffuse a potentially damaging situation to your business’ reputation. But how do you know if it’s for you? Here are a couple of points to consider.
PR firms and agencies live or die based on the strength of their contacts in the journalism community. This community of newsmakers and storytellers have a symbiotic relationship with PR firms. If the PR agency supplies them with good, factual and credible data, then they can get a great scoop and write a unique article. In turn, the PR agency may, at one point, request them to do a write up for one of their clients, or to “leak” some information into mainstream media.
PR agencies own these relationships. When you contract a public relations professional you are essentially paying for these relationships along with their experience and knowledge in storytelling and control of the narrative.
The fact is that bad PR agencies don’t last. In a business that relies heavily on referrals and reputation, there are dire repercussions for botched, mishandled or failed cases. A quick Google search on top PR firms will yield names like Edelman, Weber Shandwick, FleishmanHillard, O’Malley Hansen, and Ketchum. With thousands of employees each, these companies haven’t been enjoying consistent growth year over year by underperforming. With clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies, their CEOs, celebrities and politicians, these PR agencies are only alive because they get the job done.
Remember that when hiring a PR agency, you are basically giving them control over the story of your business, product or personal life (to a certain extent). Think of them as publicity mercenaries. They are hired to do a job, but how they accomplish that job is totally up to them. As a disclaimer, it is worth it to mention that the majority of PR professionals operate above board and use tactics or methods considered to be ethical. But, that is not to say that they may resort to underhanded tactics to achieve their goals. Now, you may be the kind of person or business willing to turn a blind eye as long as they post results. But, if your moral compass is made of granite, then it may be a good idea to hammer our tactics, methods and their uses while drafting the contract.
Like many professionals, PR agencies and professionals can command a hefty price. This is normal. Trust us, you do not want a budget PR rep…avoid the headaches. But left to their own devices and timelines PR firms can burn through your cash in a blink of an eye. Make sure you list the milestones, terms, and schedules of payment before you proceed. If you are in a business where you must utilize media outlets, then it may be a good idea to have an in-house communication team and then hire a PR professional to supplement or compliment your team. Do not let the PR agency be your sole connection to the outside world.