When To Hire A PR Firm: The Roadmap

Most companies that we talk to about utilizing public relations fall under a few categories: They have hired a PR firm before and were unhappy with the results, they want to be more external but are unsure if now is the right time, or they are unsure if PR is a good investment in their business.

So, I decided to give you a PR roadmap on when to hire a PR firm, how much they cost and how to make sure that the PR firm you hire will deliver results that you want.

So, when should you hire a PR firm and what PR firm should you hire?

Leading up to a launch or announcement – Many companies come to us months before a launch or announcement. It could be the launch of a product, new service or even the launch of the actual company. This is one of the most important times for a company because you only get one chance to make a first impression with the media. A good PR firm should need 6-8 weeks prior to launch to create a plan, begin to set-up embargoed interviews with media and write the launch release. That launch should take 45-60 days, meaning you need to budget 3-4 months for PR. Anything less and you are not giving your firm enough time to thoroughly do their job.

Next big push – Lots of companies come to us because they have received some media attention but they now need a more sustainable campaign that will provide quality and quantity. A PR firm should be able to significantly expand your media coverage outside of the handful of contacts and hits you already have. Any good PR firm will get you proactive media coverage (profiles and features on you and your company) and reactive media coverage (inserting you into the news of the day as an expert source). We have clients sign 6 month contracts with an out after 4 months if they are unhappy with the results.

Have a PR budget – So, how much does a PR firm cost? The big ones charge millions of dollars for clients like Nike and McDonald’s but they also have marketing and communications budget they are required to spend. Most clients that come to us are making a business decision to hire a PR firm, meaning they expect to see a return on the investment. In my opinion, you need to budget between $25K and $40K for a PR firm. Don’t get me wrong, you can hire a PR consultant/freelancer for probably $2K/month, but I think you may be underwhelmed with the results and realize that occasional one-off media hits does nothing for your brand and business.

What PR firm to hire – When talking to PR firms, there are some very simple – but important questions – you can ask to truly gauge if this is the right firm for you.

1)      What clients have you worked with in my industry and what type of results did you achieve?

2)      How strong are your media contacts in my industry?

3)      Can you send me some examples of your work in the past year and three recent client referrals?

4)      What colleagues will be on this account and who will be my day-to-day point of contact?

Notice the word “recent.” PR people will brag about media coverage they got years ago, which may mean nothing in 2014. Make sure they are providing recent referrals and achievements. And Question #4 is important because you don’t want to be wined and dined by a senior executive team, only to be handed off to a junior staff after you sign the dotted line and the first check clears.

Public relations can be a very important part of elevating awareness of your business if it’s the right time, you have a budget and you pick the right firm.