We can’t all be Tim the Toolman from Home Improvement. Sometimes doing it all yourself is overrated. After all, as a small business owner there are so many other things that need your attention. Being a savvy business owner, you do recognise marketing and public relations as vital to your business’s growth.
If you ignore lead generation, you run the risk of running your business dry. Think of public relations as a form of lead generation – you need to getting your message out there anyway you can. But you can't do everything. Enter the power of outsourcing – a smart business owner does NOT do everything themselves. How much is your time worth? If you have the budget does it make sense to engage someone to do the things you don’t know how to do, want to do or don’t have the time to do?
Don’t get me wrong, I think knowing how to do your own public relations is important. I get, for many, this is not ideal and you would rather have someone do it for you (DIFY). If you do go down the path of engaging a public relations agency, here are five things you should expect from your PR firm – big or small.
You really want the agency to invest in your campaign. That means they never give up when it comes to chasing opportunities. Most agencies work on monthly retainers – make sure you understand what that means in terms of time investment from the agency. You also want the agency to spend time getting to know your business, you and your products/service. After all they are representing your business – you want them as excited as you are.
Treats your work as one of a kind
One size does NOT fit all. This is a pet peeve of mine – don’t treat me like everyone else; I am individual and unique. That is the approach you want from an agency – to treat you as one of a kind - when it comes to working out a public relations plan for your business. You want to know the agency has taken the time to explore your business and the best media outlets to approach. This can take a little bit of time...that is why I think an agreed monthly retainer works - whether I do 5 hour or 25 hours a month, the client pays the one amount (great for those with small budgets).
Makes it happen
If you have a goal (more clients, more sales, more subscribers, become a sought after expert, exposure for a specific event), it is the agency’s job to make it happen. Make sure you ask lots of questions about who, what, when, where and why. If the agency has done a good job getting to know you, then the public relations plan should answer most of these questions. They should also provide regular reporting to monitor results; ask to make sure that is part of the package.
I do want to add that a public relations can and should NEVER guarantee media coverage. We do not own the media; it is up to the journalist and the editor/producer to decide to run your story. All the agency can guarantee is to develop a good plan and a kickass media release. Sometimes other things come up, or the news mix is not right or the media are not interested in your story this time.
That is why only do a one-off campaign is so ineffective – you really need at the minimum three months to gain traction with the media (that is a relationship). While you may not see media coverage in the first month or even the second, your agency will be working madly behind the scenes (think duck paddling on a pond) making friends with your targeted media, researching potential news angles and adapting the plan as required.
Admits to mistakes when they happen
Admit it, we are all human and make mistakes. If your agency makes a mistake and admits it, you know you are onto a winner. They should never pass the buck. The rule of thumb for a media crisis plan is - tell the story, tell the truth and tell it now. The same applies for everyone; fess up if you stuff up.
Stays in regular contact
Communication is key – the agency should keep in regular contact with you. Of course, this is something you need to negotiate with them. For you it may be monthly or weekly. It could be by phone, face-to-face, Skype or email. It has to work for both parties.
Annette Densham coaches Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on how to do their own PR