I have heard time and time again, entrepreneurs feel they’ve been “burned” by their public relations firm. This may be because the firm didn’t set the right expectations, or it wasn’t the right fit. If you think you need PR and you’re exploring hiring a firm, here are a few things you should ask.
1. Ask for samples of client coverage
Many firms claim great reporter relationships and extensive coverage for their clients. They’ll provide lists of outlets and reporters where their clients have been covered, but what did those stories look like? Were they company profiles or simply mentions? Was the coverage positive and accurate? Ask to see coverage they’ve secured for past clients in industries similar to yours – this should provide a good indicator of their ability to place good stories for your company.
2. Ask for client references and call them
I’m amazed at how many people take me for my word. While it’s great that there are so many trusting people out there, there’s real value in being able to ask the firm’s current customers about their experience with the firm.
3. Ask who will lead your account daily and meet that person
I commonly hear people talk about how they were sold on a PR firm because of one particular person. Then they get into the day-to-day, and they’re working with someone completely different. Make sure you meet the person who will be leading your account and that you’re comfortable with that relationship.
4. Ask how they will keep you informed of outreach
Ask the firm you are considering how they will keep you informed of their outreach. Will it be as granular as every reporter they reach out to, or will they only share higher-level information. However they plan to keep you informed, make sure it’s suitable for you.
5. Ask how they will measure and track results
Before you can measure and track results, make sure you have clear goals and objectives for what you hope to accomplish through public relations. Once you do, ask your firm how they will measure and track their ability to help you reach those goals and objectives. Is it through increased visibility, profile building, increased site traffic, lead generation?
If you’re not ready to hire a firm yet, but you’re still looking for exposure, there are a few “do it yourself ” tips that can help you navigate the media world:
- Research who’s covering your industry. Who’s covering your competition? What are the major trends being discussed? This can help you determine where your company fits into your broader industry narrative.
- Connect and begin engaging with reporters over your social networks and comment on their articles online.
- No blast emails! Make your outreach personal. When you contact a reporter, keep your email brief, and show them you’ve done your research by letting them know why you’re reaching out to them specifically.
- Don’t include pictures or attachments in your emails, but let the reporter know you have them available if they’re interested.
- Remember, a reporter’s job is to share stories, not to market your company. Think about: tying your story to a broader trend; telling your story through your customers; or demonstrating your company’s impact on your industry or your customers.
Lindsay Mullen is founder and president of Mosher Mullen Strategies, a public relations firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and early growth companies achieve their communications goals.