Should Your Business Hire A PR Agency Or DIY?
Congratulations! You’ve launched a company!
You’ve got your logo, your website has launched and you’ve started selling. Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a bonafide business. It’s exciting! But don’t let that enthusiasm derail what you need to focus on first and foremost: marketing and sales. A product or service without customers is a moot point.
But where does PR land in this mix? Hiring an agency can seem pretty cool – having a dedicated team of professionals promoting you and your business all day sounds nice, right? And it is, but it definitely comes at a cost. And unless you’re tracking and measuring their performance, that cost can quickly become a money pit. So when is the right time to hire a PR agency? That depends. Truth be told, most startups and new small businesses can stand to do a little of their own PR at first.
What to consider for your first foray into PR
- What are our business goals? No PR executive can do a good job if you don’t make it clear what you are trying to achieve as a business. Any pro worth their weight will ask you this question before they put together a proposal or a plan. Be clear on your goals so they can devise a campaign that strategically supports your vision with effective communications. In turn, be sure to ask for consistent measurement and analytics that clearly demonstrate how PR is impacting the business (and thus, your investment).
- Can we do our own PR? There are a plethora of tools to make it easy until you reach the pivot point to needing a full blown agency. HARO, Profnet and JournoRequest allow you to see what stories reporters are currently writing and need sources for, and respond to them with a pitch. Canva and ViewedIt allow you to easily create images and videos for free, and there are a plethora of media contact databases to allow you to find the right journalist covering the relevant topics that you can comment on or be a resource for.
- Should we hire a consultant? The PR industry is vast with experts that come in all sizes and shapes. Freelancers are readily available and can be a great first step. That being said, be sure you have someone internally who is able to manage the consultant, or that the consultant is very ingrained in your business – almost treating them as an employee of the company. They must have access to executives, schedules, business plans and pivots in order to do a great job. Also, know what your main communications goals are before hiring a consultant – they tend to specialize in certain areas such as media relations, crisis communications, business writing, etc. Because they are one person, they can’t typically cover the gamut of all PR programs like an agency can. So if you’re just starting out and want someone to secure media coverage and maybe a couple of awards, then a consultant is a good option. We suggest finding the right person from network recommendations vs. a cold recruitment.
- What do we need and expect from an agency? Don’t hire an agency too soon – be sure you’re ready to handle an influx of queries that will come with the right PR campaign. However, if you are at the point where you have a growing team, consistent news and business developments, resources to support awards and speaking/events, and a steady stream of new business, then the time may be right to hire a full service agency. Before doing so, make sure you really think about what you want. PR can cover many areas, and agencies will sell you as many programs as they can. If you don’t have executives who have the time or wherewithal to speak at conferences, don’t do a speaking program just yet. If you want media relations but none of you have ever spoken to the press, be sure your agency can conduct media training. Do you need messaging and branding help? Crisis communications? Inroads with analysts? Presentation help? PR can support all of these areas and more, so set a budget and know what you want to achieve before interviewing agencies. And don’t underestimate the power of good chemistry – you’ll be working with these folks every day, sometimes under immense pressure. Be sure you like the team you hire.
At the end of the day, no two companies are alike and you have to decide what’s best for your needs today as well as the future. Like your business, PR is a journey, not a destination. So start slow, create a growth plan that aligns with your company’s, and of course, don’t forget to measure the results of any effort in which you invest. ROI should be clear and consistent. If it isn’t, try plan B.