by Rebekah Epstein, founder of fifteen media
I get this question at almost every DIY PR workshop I do: “How do I know if a PR firm is the right fit for me?”
Finding the right PR firm can be a lot like dating; it could just be a gut instinct that tells you that you’ve found the one. If you’ve never had that feeling before, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are a few things you can consider that will help you make the right decision:
Does it sound too good to be true?
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is (another unfortunate similarity to dating!) If a PR firm is saying you’re in arms reach of national coverage when you haven’t even piqued your small town paper’s interest, then you’ll know they’re blowing smoke.
A lot of PR firms over-promise when talking to prospects, because they know what people want to hear. You can give them credit for knowing how to draw people in, but don’t become a sucker for their flattery.
Do they offer the right services?
Before you hire a PR firm, consider what services you actually need done for your business. Do you want social media? Do you want traditional PR? Do you want marketing?
Not every PR agency offers the same services. Or perhaps they do offer a breadth of PR services, but their strengths only lie in one aspect. By defining what services you needed, you can focus on finding agencies that specialize in those services or that can demonstrate past successes in them. Even if an agency says they provide a particular service you want, challenge them: ask for a case study, or even ask to speak with an existing client about their experience. If they’re not willing to offer this information, consider it as big of a red flag as a grown man still living with his parents.
Will they go steady?
Try to find someone that you can do a slow and steady campaign with rather than a quick media blitz. What happens after the 3 months of PR? Everyone will forget you or, even worse, be tired of you.
Consider the old saying, “it takes years to build and only seconds to lose.” In this context, I’m talking about people’s attention. Keep your campaigns thoughtful, with longer lead times. If a PR agency tries to dazzle you with an aggressive campaign, consider them a one-trick pony and keep looking for something that will last.
Are they willing to push back?
Let’s be honest: no one wants a pushover. You want a PR firm that is honest with you, not one that just says “yes” to all of your ideas. After all, you’re hiring them for their expert opinion and guidance, not just to execute your ideas. Look for a firm that is willing to give you constructive feedback and help you grow.
That’s not to say that you should look for a pushy PR firm. Make sure their suggestions meet the same goals you have for your business. If they have great ideas that simply don’t serve your best interest, make sure you’re communicating that clearly to them. If they still don’t course-correct, then it’s time to move on in your search.
Don’t settle for the wrong PR firm. You’ve put your heart and soul into your business, so make sure you find the right partner who understands your goals and has the skills to help you meet them. Take your time with your search, and don’t get discouraged if the first PR firm doesn’t work out! The right one is out there – just like your mom always said.
Rebekah Epstein is a publicist and mentor to PR firms and small businesses. After cutting her teeth at prestigious New York publications and the notorious People’s Revolution firm, Rebekah started fifteen media, a boutique PR firm that specializes in training workshops and traditional public relations services. Rebekah is also the founder and author of NeonNotebook, an advice blog for professional Gen Y women.