Beyond the Spin
Top Questions To Ask A Prospective PR Firm
In the spirit of transparency, I am going to share how we operate and what you should know when considering engaging the services of a public relations firm.
Let us be clear; we do not move about in some clandestine, shadow world. We spend as much time out in the open, building relationships and communicating your brand message as we do huddled in our offices developing and executing strategies.
We are not “spin doctors” or “snake oil salespeople.” We want to truthfully and sincerely represent your brand and help you present your best impression to your audiences. In today’s 24/7 connected world, you cannot afford to be fake or make false promises; you will quickly be exposed and suffer the consequences. We work to ensure what you say and, as importantly, how and where you say it, are in line with your brand’s mission and vision, along with your target market’s expectations.
Size does not always matter. Small, boutique firms that specialize in industry sectors can be just as good as a large, multi-national organization. It all depends on your goals and objectives, and whether the firm can deliver the expertise and services needed to achieve them.
Now that I have shared a little about my side of the shop, here are few things you may want to know about your prospective firm.
How are they structured?
Many firms today are breaking from the tradition of keeping large staff in favor of creating teams of specialists, custom-built for each client, with specific skills and areas of industry/sector expertise. This collaborative approach means you have people who excel at what they do. Oftentimes, it is more economical, as you only pay for the talent you need and not for the operations of an entire company.
Where does their expertise lie? Media and influencer relations, content development, digital and social media management. These core competencies, along with innovative approaches to garnering attention and publicity for your brand, demonstrate the firm has the skills to develop and execute integrated strategies. Ask for client lists, references and examples of work to ensure the firm can do what they say they can.
Who will be your primary contact? How will you work together? You should have a designated account manager who will be responsible for the team providing your services and be your primary contact. This person should have relative experience, strong communication skills and the personal attributes to work well with you and your team. In the beginning of the relationship, weekly or more frequent communication is necessary to ensure that you and your PR team are all on the same page in the development and execution of strategies. As understanding and comfort levels grow, these interactions can be scaled back, but you should always have direct access to your account manager and they must be responsive to your questions and concerns.
How are services priced? The firm can offer a suite of services for a predetermined monthly fee or an hourly rate with a maximum number of hours allocated per month. These may include a set amount of content development and distribution, such as press releases, blog posts, articles, infographics, etc. There may be additional charges for projects outside of the agreed-upon services (e.g., new product launches, special event development, digital marketing campaigns and travel), and these can be negotiated on a per-hour or per-project basis with your pre-approval.
What tools are used to measure ROI?
We use technology that can track multitudes of audience activity in real time. We can tell you how many people viewed a social media post or the number of prospects who visited your website or requested information as a result of viewing online content, along with details about them. Ask your firm what tools they use and how they will report information to you. Ensure that it is the information you need to evaluate your return on investment.
What support or resources will be required from you or your organization? In the beginning, there will be a substantial amount of time needed to communicate with your firm, provide them with information to produce content, review strategies and discuss ongoing activities and results. Make sure you or your designate understand that time commitment. We want to provide you with the best level of service possible. To do that, we need the information and insights only you can provide.
A good PR firm wants to be your “partner” in a mutually beneficial and successful relationship. Your success is their success!
Geo A. Ropert, APR is the founder and president of Ropert and Partners Public Relations. His firm develops and executes customized PR and marketing communication strategies for businesses and organizations that want to “rise above the noise” of their competition. Learn more at RopertAndPartners.com.