When to Hire a PR Agency
Starting a company is a grueling process. It involves risk after risk of creating a product, reaching out to a target market, and generating revenue – all on whatever shoestring budget has been cobbled together by taking on some odd jobs around town.
Then you have to earn publicity and you may realize that the whole startup process wasn’t even the hardest part.
But how do you go about it? Can you do your own PR? Or is there a point when you need to take on the commitment of hiring a PR agency?
First, a disclaimer:
Not every company is ready for PR…but most firms will just take your money anyway.
The question of when to hire a PR firm will likely come up when your organization is in its early stages. In an ideal world, PR would be so simple. Call up some newspapers, sell them your unique story, and wait for the cash flow to stream in.
But raking in money and getting more customers are not the reasons to seek out a PR agency. If those are your primary concerns, you won’t reap the benefits of these services.
PR is a long-term (think months to years) process that serves to position your brand’s story and image in the public conversation. Sure, loads of people will hear about your company and your customer base may even rise as a result – but PR is about building a relationship with the public. To enlist this process, you need to be ready with a deeper understanding of what your organization can offer to the conversation.
Agencies know this and most will turn you away if you don’t have the necessary foundation to begin a partnership. But others may work with you anyways. They will take your retainer, knowing full well that success is not likely. These instances are rare. But the possibility means it is more important to know if you are ready to hire a PR agency.
So, these are some things you should have in mind before you start reaching out.
Understand your brand and your story
PR is about message delivery. To deliver a message you actually need one.
A start-up with no history, little influence, and untested innovation will be hard-pressed to discover its story beyond the usual genre clichés. Sure, it is the job of the PR agency to help you develop a message, but it helps to have an idea of it to begin with.
Usually, you can do this by taking a deeper look at anything intrinsically interesting about your company. That would be a history of perseverance, a product with potential influence, or a founder’ personal story. Sometimes, the story may not be easy to spot.
Take some time to mature as an organization first. After some growth, you will have a better understanding of what your role in your industry is and what you have to offer to the conversation.
From there it will be much easier to work with a PR firm.
You have a product
You have one, right?
You have customers
You have some, right?
Do you have the budget for PR agency?
Unless you have previous experience with marketing agencies and advertising people, you may be surprised to find out how PR agencies charge their clients.
The short version: often it is not cheap.
The global PR industry has an estimated worth of $17 billion and growing. A lot of this money comes from charging service fees.
Not all PR agency pricing formats are the same. Depending on the range of services provided agencies will charge based on hours, projects, quantifiable results, or expense budgets. Most agencies start with a retainer, usually a monthly fee paid in advance to cover for at least 6 months of services. On average, retainer fees sit around $5000 to $10000 a month.
Some smaller firms manage to charge less than those prices but it is still worthwhile to check if your company can handle costs like these for months ahead.
You are looking to make a long-term investment?
Understand how PR firms work. Their job is not to grant you short-term press and get your name out there for a few weeks. A firm will be your partner in growing your reputation into the public conversation over a period of months or even years.
For PR firms, positioning is a massive undertaking that requires a team of experienced professionals, earned relationships, and a strategy. Usually, the firm will need to stay in communication with your company to discuss better methods to tell your story, run major decisions by you and strategize for long-term projects.
Basically, it is a huge commitment.
It’s not cheap. Doesn’t guarantee results. Is more about reaching audiences and clarifying the message of your brand than anything. The agency will be your partner in a long-term project to position your company as an influential figure.
Be sure your organization can deliver
As I’ve mentioned (for the sake of repetition, maybe), hiring a PR firm means starting a partnership. The coupling requires cooperation.
To fully understand your business and the engaging stories it can tell, the firm will need access to the business and its main point of contact. This will involve in-person meetings and phone calls to deliver updates and gather more information.
Knowing that your company will be willing to put in the time and energy for meetings, interviews, and other forms of communication will make working with a PR agency that much easier.
Understand your alternative options
Do you need a team of people focused on your brand to gather influencers, host events in your name, find a place for you in the online conversation, and develop your relationships with several media people over the course of several years?
Or do you need someone to write a few blog posts for your website?
Hiring a PR firm pays for access to vast resources such as trusted media contacts, strategic communicators, analytics tools, fancy events and a whole bunch of other under-the-sleeve tricks of the industry.
If you really need all that…great. But if not, you still have options when it comes to getting some of those services.
Hiring a freelance writer, for example, is a cheap and flexible way to come up with text content for small scale content marketing projects like writing blog posts.
An in-house PR specialist/manager is another way to go. This route comes cheaper than a PR agency but with a smaller staff and less resources. These guys can do the work of a freelance writer – and then some – while working full time -and then some.
So those are pretty much the basics. Understand the needs and resources of your company and you should be able to come to an informed decision of whether or not to hire a PR agency.
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Whether you just need a quick PR-related question answered, an unbiased review of a press release, a sounding board for whether your pitch should be offered to everyone or as an exclusive – PRIME|PR is ready to help.
If you need more – top level strategy on messaging and branding, creative pitch creation and execution to get more ink, or a fully integrated PR and marketing campaign from scratch, PRIME|PR is your agency. Let us show you what we can do.