Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to Hire a PR Firm

If you've decided that you don't want to do your own publicity and plan to hire a publicist, proceed slowly and with caution. There are a lot of great publicists but there are a lot who are "fabulous" at dazzling you with their fawning demeanor and razzle-dazzle presentations and facilities, but lousy at delivering results.

Here are tips for hiring a PR firm whether you're looking for small business, nonprofit, or book publicity:
  1. Ask around to find out who can deliver.
  2. Talk to those you’re considering, then send them a briefing letter that outlines your goals, needs and expectactions. Request a capabilities letter in return.
  3. Schedule in-person meetings with those firms whose capabilities fit your needs.
  4. Have a frank conversation about expectations. Clients don't always know what can be achieved and are attracted to publicists who agree with their publicity goals rather than giving them a reality check. You want somebody who is realistic and has the business sense to say, "This is not a good fit for Oprah but I'm fairly sure we can get you strong exposure in local markets across the country."
  5. Select an agency for the right reasons – their experience is relevant, their work is good, you feel you can work with the staff, and they’re affordable. Don't select an agency or individual because they are the best schmoozers. You can't afford to spend your budget dollars with anyone who doesn't have the skills and experience to deliver.
  6. Avoid surprises by putting everything in writing – who will do what and when, what it will cost, when they will be paid.
The key is to be realistic about what can be achieved and to find the best possible individual or team to achieve that for you. Get more tips in my posting on pay for placement PR (I am opposed to it).

What's the best tip anybody ever gave you about hiring a consultant like a publicist or a PR firm?


Anonymous said...


I think a good topic for a future blog post would be how to write a good briefing letter. I'll bet that most of your prospective clients don't know how to do that.

Sandra Beckwith said...

Great idea, Susan! I'll do that.