There are a ton of articles floating around about why you should hire a PR firm. I wrote an article on it last year. But what I didn’t delve into is all of the reasons why not to hire a PR firm. Having run a PR company for almost a decade now, I can quickly assess who is going to be a good client fit. If I sense certain red flags, nine times out of 10, I will walk away from the business prior to the start of a new client relationship.
Here’s why: PR is not for everyone. PR is expensive, time consuming, and it requires a lot of work from the client as well as the agency.
If you fit one of the below, I recommend not hiring a publicist.
You want instant, overnight results. If you are someone who likes instant gratification, you will be unhappy with any publicist you hire, unless their rolodex is made of gold. As a PR practitioner, I rarely meet other publicists who pick up the phone, dial an editor at Vogue, and instantly get their clients written about. That kind of myth is a remnant that still exists from the old days of PR. Publicity takes work. No matter how strong the publicist’s relationship with an outlet is, if the story isn’t strong enough, then the reporter isn’t going to cover it.
You don’t want to do any work. This is the biggest issue that I encounter in the PR industry today. People hire a publicist the way they hire an accountant. They think that they can hire a vendor, speak to them a few times a year, and that publicity will magically happen. In reality, PR requires daily engagement from the client side. The clients who are happiest with PR results put the most amount of time into driving the client-agency relationship. They read the news, send stories to their publicists to pitch, and write back to their publicists with thoughtful responses to HARO queries. In short, they put in the time. PR is like a sport. It requires patience, dedication, and practice.
You don’t have the time to provide the necessary thought leadership content. As an industry, PR has shifted. Most clients don’t want press placements anymore; they want digital placements. To do this, a solid amount of time is required from the client side to provide thought leadership tips for content creation. For example, if you are a neurosurgeon and you hire a publicist, it is not their job to ghost tips for you. They simply can’t because they don’t have your knowledge base. Unless you’re looking for low quality work from a content farm, you need to send your PR person what they are asking for. They can’t promote your greatness without the core knowledge that only you possess.
You expect PR to translate into sales. Your PR person is not your Director of Sales. This is the number one reason most agencies get fired: clients are unhappy that the placements didn’t generate a massive uptick in sales. The role of a publicist is to formulate stories that get the media’s attention and result in a placement. If a publicist is getting you consistent placements, then they are doing what you hired them to do. The problem is when clients start complaining, “I know you got me a three-page spread, but it didn’t translate into new business.” That is the equivalent of saying to your dentist, “I know you filled my cavity, but you didn’t fix the pain in my jaw. The pain in your jaw should be seen by a doctor, not your dentist, and it’s not the dentist’s responsibility. The same goes for sales and PR.
You want to be “famous.” If you want to hire a publicist because you aspire to be famous, please don’t. Clients who hire publicists because they want to be famous are the worst clients. Saying you want to be famous is like saying you want to be President some day. What qualifies you to be famous? What is interesting about you? What star worthy quality do you have that makes you press worthy? Ego driven PR is not a strategy; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. Fame is the end product of many years of work in a specific industry. The publicist’s job is to bring attention to what you makes you special, not to make you special.
You have nothing newsworthy to promote. I get that you have a new business. So does everyone. What makes it different? Why should the media write about it? If you haven’t thought these answers through, you need to. Unless you are looking for a one hit wonder PR campaign, you will be unhappy. Granted, it’s the publicist’s job to come up with these angles, but if you don’t have newsworthy content, the media won’t write about you. If you hire a PR person and have convinced yourself how newsworthy your story truly is, please don’t blame a publicist if they can’t get it placed. Your Mom thinking something is great is not the same thing as a reporter at Forbes thinking something is great.
You think PR will solve inherent business issues. A lot of people hire publicists thinking it will fix a core issue in their business. PR can’t solve these issues. If anything, it can make them worse. For example, if you are a Fortune 500 company and have constant turnover, chances are greater something pertaining to this story will come out while working with a PR person. The reason being that if a PR person secures a story on your company, any journalist worth his salt will start digging around and notice certain discrepancies. It’s best to have everything buttoned up before hiring a PR firm.
You saw a competitor on TV and now you want to be on TV. Believe it or not, this is one of the most commonly listed reasons that prospects come to me. They see someone else doing it, and therefore, they think they should be doing it. If you hire a publicist to get you on TV and they get you a hit, you are expected to drop everything you have for the day, close up shop, and run down to the city to do the hit. If you say no, the chances of the opportunity coming up again are slim to none. Are you really prepared to close your business for the day just because you saw someone else on TV?
You aren’t good with long term commitments. When you hire a PR firm, you have to be in it for the long haul. The average agency retention rate is incredibly low; at the typical agency, every six months clients seek new agency representation. Clients run from agency to agency, thinking the problem was with the publicist. The truth is that you will be happier with your results if you stick with one firm for long enough. Most publicists won’t work on engagements for less than 6 months. If they are pitching long lead editorials, some of the placements may not even come out until after your relationship ends. The first one to three months of any new engagement requires a lot of upfront prep work, the next three months require heavy pitching. I rarely encounter a new client who is ready to go to media from day one. The best PR client I have has stayed with me for 6 years. They understand the business and are in it for the long haul.
You aren’t willing to drop everything for a press hit. When a reporter does answer; they want to speak to a client immediately. If you work in an industry where this just isn’t an option, then PR may not be the best approach. There is no worse feeling than getting a client a hit and not being able to do it. In the PR world, there is nothing more important than getting back to a reporter or producer. If you aren’t ready to drop everything to speak to them, then PR may not be right for you.
Kris Ruby is the CEO of Ruby Media Group, a Public Relations and Social Media Agency. Kris Ruby is a frequent on air TV contributor and speaks on social media, tech trends and crisis communications. For more information, visit www.rubymediagroup.com or www.krisruby.com