There's no doubt that publicity and public relations are powerful marketing tools for your small business. If you've decided to step up your PR efforts, or you want help publicizing a new business, you may want assistance from an expert. Choosing the right PR consultant or agency can help your company achieve star status, but selecting the wrong one can be a costly mistake.
Knowing what to look for in a consultant or agency will help ensure that your PR campaign is a success. Outsourcing this task will also cost more than doing your own PR, so be prepared to set aside money for an effective and ongoing public relations effort.
A PR consultant can:
- Build awareness about your company
- Promote the launch of a new product
- Handle media relations
- Provide media training and coaching
- Conduct market research
- Arrange and coordinate speaking engagements
- Create and coordinate contests and promotions
- Create press releases, press kits and other publicity materials
Define your objectivesAre you seeking PR for a one-time product launch, to increase awareness or for an ongoing campaign? Your specific needs will narrow the field.
Choose between a full-service, boutique or local agencyLarge PR firms handle a broad spectrum of public relations activities; boutiques specialize in either an industry, such as the tech industry, or in a specific activity, such as online PR. Unless you're launching a major ongoing campaign, most small business PR needs can be served by a specialty boutique.
Set your budgetMany PR firms require a monthly retainer for ongoing PR efforts; others bill hourly; some request a flat fee for a one-time event or project. Find out what's included in that fee and if you will also be charged for expenses.
Judge experienceChoose a consultant with experience in the type of PR efforts you need, whether it's publicizing a grand opening, creating and administering a contest or writing press releases.
Track activities and measure resultsYour PR firm should provide you with detailed updates of the activities performed on your behalf – calls to the media, press releases written and sent, email blasts and more.
- Some agencies will send out their head honchos to pitch their services to you but will hand off your account to a junior agent once they land your account.
- When meeting with PR agencies, always determine who within the agency will be handling your account and be sure to include them in your meetings.
- Many PR firms will ask for a three-month or a six-month contract.
- Designate someone in your office – it could be yourself – to be the main contact for the PR firm and to coordinate efforts and provide support.
- Look for a firm that has experience with small businesses.
- If you're the smallest client at a major agency, you may not get as much attention as you deserve. You may get more bang for your buck if you're a big fish in a small pond.