5 Things Small Businesses Get Wrong About Hiring a PR Firm

Business.com / Public Relations / Last Modified: August 31, 2017
Photo credit: Rafal Olechowski/Shutterstock

These are five common reasons business owners don't hire PR services – and why those reasons don't hold up.

What you don't know can hurt you. If you've been thinking about giving your business a boost through public relations but worry there are too many barriers, you might have it all wrong. The power of PR through editorial media can be a highly effective way to build a brand and get your company broad exposure. Like no other form of marketing, editorial coverage provides an implied third-party endorsement that adds credibility to a business and raises its profile among potential customers.

So why aren't you doing it? If you're using one of these five excuses, you have it all wrong.

1. It's too expensive.

From independent freelancers to large agencies, the cost of PR largely depends on who you hire. But generally, PR is a lot less expensive than advertising. In fact, it doesn't even come close. Try to buy print placement in a national glossy magazine or air time for a commercial and you'll learn new meaning to the term "sticker shock." That's not even counting the production and design costs that go into such an advertisement. And in the end, it's still an ad – and the consumer views it that way.

There's no harm in trying a starter PR campaign and seeing how much your dollars will stretch. If you hire the right firm, the money you spend on public relations should land you key media placements with the kinds of outlets that will bring value to your business. It's likely to be less costly than you think.

Any amount spent on marketing is too much if it doesn't work. But effective public relations is priceless.

2. I need to have success first.

Timing is everything in PR, and businesses often wait too long to do it. Authors of books have reached out to us about generating publicity months after their books have been published. Manufacturers of products sometimes decide to launch into PR years after hitting the market. It's much tougher to land publicity when it's old news. You only have one chance in the life of your business to be new, and that's a story hook you can never duplicate down the line. Don't waste that opportunity waiting to hit it big first.

If you're anticipating success before PR, you have it backward. Landing significant and wide-ranging editorial exposure now can be the key to helping your business grow.

 

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3. A press release is all I need.

Somewhere along the line, people started confusing public relations with press releases. Not the same thing. At all.

A press release is a tool used in public relations. In today's media climate, it should really be reserved solely for significant announcements and milestones – such as a company's launch to market, a major funding announcement or a partnership deal. Even in those cases, a press release only gets you so far. It gives the media information to write a story. But it doesn't convince them to write one. A strategic PR plan and proactive media outreach are necessary to get reporters to cover you. Relying entirely on the perceived power of a press release is a major mistake.

4. It's who you know.

There's a widespread misconception that success on the media front comes from who you know. The truth is that good contacts are only a small piece of the puzzle. The more critical aspect to successful public relations is a good pitch – a story angle about you or your business that holds media appeal.

Not sure what is newsworthy about your business? You don't have to be. A savvy PR professional will mine just the right stories to help you land media placement. Most often, what we discover to be a fabulous angle for publicity is something our client didn't even know was interesting. 

5. PR won't help my business.

Unless you are set on being in stealth mode, there is obvious benefit from getting your business in the media spotlight. It can raise consumer awareness, drive sales, increase brand credibility, attract investors, lead to partnerships, secure retailers, create book deals and speaking engagements, and so much more.

PR works best when you're open to all possibilities. There is a bit of experimentation to see what works best from different media (print, broadcast or the internet) to various story angles and target markets. If you think millions of people learning about your business won't help, think again.

There are legitimate reasons why some entrepreneurs shouldn't be engaged in public relations just yet. Timing around manufacturing, product availability and seasonality of the business are just a few of those reasons. But if you're letting one of the five misconceptions above keep you from pursuing PR, you are letting what you don't know hurt you.

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