Publicity can do a lot of things. It can help you reach a wider audience, attract new customers, educate people about your product or service, increase attendance at events, and even help launch careers.
PR, however, is not magic. It can’t fix mediocre products, unethical leadership, or an outdated business model. But let’s say you have a fabulous business and an inspiring, motivated founder and you’ve been thinking about hiring a PR firm or publicist for a while. Your business is doing pretty well — sales have been steadily increasing, feedback is positive, and you’ve even been featured in a local food blog or two.
Is it time to take it to the next level with a PR firm? The answer is maybe.
We’ve pulled together a list of seven questions that are designed to help you make an informed and strategic decision about whether or not the time has come to hire a public relations firm. It’s based on years of experience not only working with a wide variety of clients but also being on the client side and knowing what’s needed from both parties to get great results and develop a positive and collaborative relationship.
- Do you have clear, defined goals for what you want to accomplish with PR? Your goals might include things like positioning your CEO as a thought leader, attracting investors, lead generation, and of course, sales. Aim for three to five goals that you’ve prioritized by importance and potential impact.
- How will you measure success? Old-school PR used to be measured in impressions. Not anymore. Social media and the web have opened up a whole world of metrics like referring traffic that can be tracked using Google analytics, email list growth, social media mentions, and qualified leads.
- What’s your budget? Even smaller PR firms can have monthly retainers that start at $5K and require a year-long commitment. Plus, getting into the PR groove with a new firm can take a while–six months to a year is a good baseline.
- Do you have realistic expectations? It can take months and sometimes longer to get a national media hit, and even then there are no guarantees. Not everything is press worthy–in fact very few things are–especially when it comes to national media coverage. Look around at your competitors to see what type of publicity they are getting and how you can compete on that playing field. Maybe it makes sense for you to begin with local, small press or ramp up speaking engagements. Start with what matters to you most and prioritize accordingly.
- Is your brand ready for public scrutiny? Do your social media channels and website look professional and polished? Is your messaging clear and consistent? Can website visitors easily find out how to buy your product? Is your online ordering platform easy to use? Do you clearly convey your value proposition through marketing materials and other communication channels?
- Do you have the time to commit to PR? Do you have the capacity to manage an agency and engage with the media? For example, will you be able to drop everything to do an interview with a writer when the time (and their deadline) comes? A strong PR effort requires constant care and feeding–not just by the PR professional but by business stakeholders and leadership as well. It is very much a collaborative relationship that should be built on trust, mutual respect, creative thinking, and achievable and measurable results.
- Can you handle success? You may have dreams of a feature in Fast Company or Food + Wine, and hey, we respect those goals. Getting on a national TV show or in a major print publication can truly catapult you into the limelight. Just be sure you’re ready. That means the ability to fulfill orders, deal with traffic spikes to your website, peaks in customer inquiries and more.