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Need PR? Ten Tips to Choosing the Right Public Relations Firm

Apr 2, 2008
If you are one of the thousands of businesses looking to gain national media attention for your company, products or services then you are probably facing the difficult decision of finding the right PR firm. What can make this decision difficult is that there are so many different kinds of PR firms out there. Some are local, some national. Some retainer based, some project based. So how do you know which PR firm will be the best fit for your objectives? Here are 10 tips on how to choose the RIGHT PR firm to get your message the media attention that you desire:

1. Find a firm that specializes in your industry. "For example,if you have a technical B2B business then you should find a national PR firm that specializes in B2B. If the PR firm regularly works with companies that are in your industry, they will be familiar with how to write and pitch your message to the media." Also, they should be able to get started right away. "If you choose a national PR firm who is unfamiliar with your industry, be prepared for them to spend some time researching your industry in order to get a full handle on your topic". And guess who will be paying for the PR firm's research time: you! "Most firms charge a costly monthly retainer, so the longer it takes for them to get started the more money that will be coming out of your bank account. Just to give you an idea the minimum is around $3,000 per month, the industry average is approximately $5,000 per month and the large PR firms can charge anywhere from $20,000-30,000 per month."

2. Choose a firm that specializes in your medium of choice. If you are ready to hire a PR firm, then chances are that you have given a bit of thought as to what medium you want to use. "By the time you start looking for a PR firm you will probably have a good idea if you want to use talk radio, television, newspapers or magazines to get exposure for your topic. It is useful to know that not all PR firms work with all types of media". "A whopping 95% of firms specialize exclusively in print." So if you are interested in doing radio or television you need to find a firm that specializes in these mediums. "The best way to find out is to ask the PR firm what media that they specialize in, simple as that!"

3. Request sample campaigns. "Before choosing a PR firm, request to see some sample PR campaigns that the firm executed for their clients". "This way you can see the quantity and the quality of the media obtained for their clients." When you are given a campaign it is important to know what the duration of the campaign was. "For example, if they show you a PR campaign that has one huge newspaper placement (such as USA Today or The New York Times) and the duration of the campaign was 2 years, think twice about working with them. "If it took 2 years to get one major media placement, based on the minimum retainer level, you would have paid a massive $72,000 for that one newspaper hit." Sample PR campaigns are a great indicator of the effectiveness, especially the cost effectiveness, of a PR firm's work.

4. Find a pay-for-performance firm! The costly monthly retainer can really hit your budget where it hurts, so it is good to know that there are other options out there. "There are a handful of PR firms out there that get paid based on their performance or per project. So instead of paying a monthly fee, clients will pay for the results that the PR firm obtains for them." By choosing a pay-for-performance firm you are truly making your PR firm put their money where their mouth is!

5. Speak to the PR firm's clients. When you are choosing a national PR firm it is very important to ask to speak to some of their clients, past or present. When you get them on the phone, ask the PR firm's clients what sort of media exposure they received and how long it took for the PR firm to obtain it for them. "Great questions to ask are; How well did the PR firm's staff interact with them? Did they seem interested in the campaign? How creative were the pitches and press releases? These answers will give you valuable insight as to how the PR firm will handle your campaign."

6. Be confident in their ability. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure that you are convinced that the PR firm will create, and execute, a successful campaign. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions, request copies of sample campaigns and then do a comprehensive review of all of the materials. " I would suggest that before you make your final decision you talk to owners and definitely request a proposal, ask the important questions. Where are they going to get you media exposure? How long the campaign will last? What are the goals of the campaign? How long will it take to meet these goals? How the PR firm answers these questions will ultimately determine the level of confidence you have in their ability to service your account.

7. Don't limit yourself to firms in your area. If you're looking for regional or national exposure don't limit your search to PR firms that are located within your vicinity. "Many people believe that you need to have a firm located just down the street so that you can have regular face-to-face meetings with them." "But this is not how it works. In my 20 years of gaining national media attention for my clients, I have only had a face-to-face meetings with a handful them. The reason for this is that I don't need to. All of a PR firm's work can be done via phone and email which is a far more efficient, and time saving, way to work." If your goal is to attain national media attention, find a firm that specializes pitching to the national media. A national media PR firm's skill level and specialization is what is important, not where they are located. If your goal is to gain local media attention, this is when it is a good idea to look for a local firm. "As they are in the middle of the market you are after, their contacts and knowledge will be far more effective than that of a national firm."

8. Meet your Campaign Manager. There is one person in particular who plays a vital role in driving the success of at the PR firm: your Campaign Manager. Before you make the decision on which PR firm you use, meet your Campaign Manager. Find out what their experience level is and how long they have been with the firm. "A great nugget of information is that many Campaign Managers are rookies fresh from college." "Even more frightening is that many national and local PR firms hire interns to handle the client accounts that they do not deem a 'top priority'." If you don't investigate the qualifications of your Campaign Manager, then how can you be confident that your campaign will be handled by a professional?

9. Find a PR firm that believes in your message. The best type of PR firm is one that not only understands your message but also has enthusiasm for your topic. "If you find a firm like this, their enthusiasm for your message will show in the work that they do. The pitches and press releases will be more creative and their communications to the media will be attention grabbing and clear." In order for a PR firm to successfully work for you, they need to understand your passion and be able to translate it into something that will be of interest to the masses. It can be quite costly if they misunderstand your point."

10. Trust your gut. "My final tip to choosing the right PR firm has everything to do with that almighty 'gut feeling'. When you are in the process of deciding if a PR firm is a right fit for your needs it is inevitable that you will have strong views about their work and approach. I would advise that even if everything looks fantastic on paper, or in a snazzy presentation, if you have absolutely any reservations think twice about choosing the firm." Gut instincts tend to be accurate, so if the chemistry is off in any way, be weary of pushing the working relationship forward. There is nothing worse then finding out your instincts were right when it is too late!

Well there you go! 10 tips on how to choose the right PR firm for you!
About the Author
Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on publicity for authors for nearly two decades as CEO of Event Management Services, Inc (EMSI). If you would like to receive her free Ebook "How to Be a Great Talk Radio Guest" visit http://www.emsincorporated.com.
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