In part one of this series, we looked at how public relations differs from advertising and if it pays to promote your business through editorial coverage. Now, let’s talk expectations.
Set Your Expectations From the Get-Go
When meeting with a potential PR rep, be prepared with these key considerations.
Know what you want. Do you want print coverage in food magazines of your specialty teas? Coverage on fashion blogs of your hand-knit scarves? A spot on a local morning show featuring your handcrafted jewellery? Before you meet with your potential PR rep, think about the type of coverage you want. Consider where your audience is and how best to reach them. Is it through TV? Radio? Mommy blogs? All of the above? You’ll find that most public relations pros have a stronger pull in one area. Make sure they match up with your goals.
Go with experience. It’s important that you hire someone with experience in your industry. You don’t need to be anyone’s guinea pig. Does the firm or individual have experience specifically reaching your target audience? Find out. If for example, you sell golf equipment, look for someone who has repped some type of B2C retail product with a sports and recreational audience.
Listen to your gut. From my experience, PR professionals are talkers. You might be charmed by their magical smile or their grandiose promises. Know that during your initial conversations, they do want to get you excited about what they can offer you. Who can blame them? But if you feel the slight bit of hesitation about someone, snoop around and get referrals from other people who that person has worked with. Get the real scoop and move on if you don’t think he or she is a good match or full of hot air. Try to avoid long and unnecessary meetings as well. In my experience you’ll get a pretty good feel for whether you want to work with them quite quickly.
PRO TIP: “When working with a public relations pro, be prepared to answer the following three questions: 1. Who cares about your story or business? 2. Why would someone care about it? 3. What benefits does it bring to your target audience? This will help your rep focus in on what’s newsworthy about your business.” — Leslie Sonnenklar, Associate Director of Public Relations at RIESTER
Working With Your PR Rep
Once you’ve signed on with a public relations agent, your job is now to be prepared — for anything. It may feel a little like you’re in “hurry up and wait” mode but your agent needs time to make a plan around your goals. Be prepared to answer questions and guide the messaging as you review plans, releases, and pitches.
Depending on your public relations campaign direction, you can generally expect your agent to:
- Deliver an overall strategy or plan for the agreed-open campaign duration
- Write and distribute press releases
- Pitch story ideas to journalists and producers
- Follow up on all outreach
- Write and distribute media alerts about special events
- Coordinate interviews and media appearances
PRO TIP: “Public relations means you will have an additional hat to wear. Even though you hire a pro to get you media attention, they need your help with gathering info on the biz, stories behind the scenes, and your time to do interviews.” — Charlotte Shaff, President and Owner of The Media Push
How Do You Assess Results?
If you’ve landed your first TV spot, congrats! Book your haircut and start working on your talking points (more on that in an upcoming post). But if nothing’s sticking, don’t despair. Remember, public relations is “earned media” and is different than advertising. Anything earned requires patience.
If months have gone by and your public relations pro still hasn’t landed any solid leads, regroup, and rethink your approach. You may be in a highly competitive or over-saturated market.
For example, if your pie shop has yet to get a media bite in a city that is flooded with top-notch bakeries, your PR rep may be more challenged to get you publicity. It may require you to shift the pitch, host a re-grand opening event, sponsor a pie challenge, or team up with a local charity for a good cause. Don’t be afraid to look to your pro for collaboration on creative ideas.
Above all, be prepared for anything. This final nugget sums up the wild ride that is PR.
PRO TIP: “Make yourself available for last-minute media interviews! If you want your publicist to get you valuable media or news placement, be ready for last-minute interviews, photo shoots, etc. Public relations pros are often at the mercy of the media, and when they feel your specialty is relevant and timely in the news. TV news and editorials hold stronger credibility in the eyes of consumers, more so than ANY advertisement. If your publicist positioned you as the expert in your industry or field, BE READY to be THAT expert when the media needs to fill that newscast airtime or editorial space.” — Tess Dumlao, Owner of Tess Public Relations & Marketing.