I recently had a chance to meet with a potential client who is searching for a publicist. With each of these types of meetings I am able to learn more about what people are experiencing in speaking with other public relations firms as well as discover if my company is still meeting the needs of those in search of taking their brand to a broader audience.
This particular meeting provided a great discussion, but also sparked this post. In the middle of our conversation regarding their needs I was asked, “What should I look for in a pr agency?” This took me back as it didn’t seem to be a question challenging what we can offer, but really a way to ensure they are on the right track while meeting publicists.
Truly it can be a difficult task of researching and even taking a leap of faith when making decisions on how to invest your resources to help promote your company or organization. So let’s take some of the height out of the “leap” and make it easy for you to discover if an agency will be able to meet your needs.
Here is a brief list of 5 things to look for when hiring a publicist or agency:
Access to the media through personal contacts and the right wire services. Here is the thing about PR work. It is a relationship building and a resource access business. You want to make sure the person you select has immediate access to some of the outlets you want to appear in as well as ensure they have the ability to reach those you haven’t even thought about. This happens through their personal contacts as well as the use of the right wire service and platform to help your brand to connect with media personnel. It doesn’t matter how connected a publicist is, they cannot keep your brand in front of the media with merely their personal list.
Experience with crisis communication. It isn’t a matter of “if” your brand will mess up, it is a matter of when and how you respond. A few seemingly innocent words can turn into a business altering tragedy. The publicist you hire must be able to navigate the waters and help to provide you with immediate solutions to your issues. They should also be able to work well with not only the media during these times but with any attorneys, boycotting organizations, etc. Take a moment to ask about cases they may have been involved with over the years.
Knowledgeable. Why I don’t recommend attempting to quiz the publicist, you should make sure they are aware of media tools, laws on statements you can and cannot make that may falsely represent your company, etc. The publicist should be able to mention innovative campaigns they’ve worked on or tools they use to assist their clients. A good publicist will not only be working from the ethical standards mentioned by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), but they will be familiar with laws concerning the FTC, FCC and copyright statutes.
Reputation. It’s easy for one person to say how great they are, but are their peers or other industry experts saying the same thing? Does the publicist appear on any industry panels, news articles or shows as an expert in their field? Are they a go-to-resource for others? Trust me. If they’re doing anything others are making note of, it will not be hard to do a search on their impact in the business world or specifically the field of public relations. By doing your reputation search, you may find out they need a publicist of their own due to bad work in the past.
Compatibility. This one is last, but important. I recommend you listing 3-5 qualities you believe you’re looking for in a partner. Because you’re basically looking at a long-term relationship (nothing happens overnight). Can you see them being a great partner? Will they be able to add and multiply to your brand rather than subtracting or dividing from it? Are they going to bring excitement and support? Can they provide you with a level of trust? Again, this is a partnership. Be sure to link up with someone who you’ll feel comfortable with to provide your financial investment to over the coming months and years.
It’s important to note no matter what agency you select, there is a great amount of work to be done on your part as well as theirs. Always know your end goal and budget when speaking to a potential agency. With these tips you will find a good agency to assist your brand.
Five is such a short number. Maybe I should make it 6 things? It’s possible to add their ability to report on progress globally, but that really also falls under number one.
What do you think? Are there any items missing from the list?
Comment below and your answer may appear in a future blog post or an update to this one.