It’s no secret that PR has left entrepreneurs and brands wanting more in terms of execution and results over the years. However, whether you’re a budding young entrepreneur or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the idea of nabbing press coverage, online visibility, and a platform of influence is not only appealing but necessary for developing trust, credibility, and authority with potential clients.
To boost your chances of finding a PR agency you’re happy and successful with, you need to do some homework. Here are six things to do before handing over your business:
1. Identify Company Goals
Oftentimes, companies assume they need PR because they’ve seen it work for other businesses. They believe it’s the natural progression in their business’s lifecycle to hire a PR firm to gain press coverage. Before you even start to converse with firms, sit down and consider what your company wants to accomplish through PR.
Are you looking to gain more promotion, or are you hoping to educate and gain credibility? Identifying your goals will enable you to better define the kind of outcomes you want and allow you to demand more objective results from the firm you choose.
2. Identify Personal Goals
As a leader, there should be strategy backing the positions you’re creating for your company and yourself. By understanding and creating goals for your company and personal brands, you can align them to make sure they’re playing off each other to help grow the business.
If you value being viewed as an authority in your industry, you can easily utilize content you’ve produced to, in turn, gain authority and shed light on your company. Your brand is inextricably connected to your company’s; determine how you want one to define the other.
3. Set Expectations for the Relationship
We’ve all heard horror stories of yearlong retainers with PR firms that lead you down a road of unrealistic expectations and limited quantifiable results. This happens when clear expectations aren’t set by either the PR agency or the client; without knowing what’s going to get accomplished, there’s no plan for the firm to execute.
As a decision maker, you have to communicate exactly what you’re looking for and challenge the firm you choose to not only meet these expectations, but involve you in the process. Yes, the point of outsourcing these efforts is to avoid 100 percent involvement, but just because you’re not 100 percent involved doesn’t mean you’re not invested. Understand that the relationship should foster a two-way street of communication to ensure that both sides are executing and implementing what they need to in order to achieve success.
4. Identify a Firm That Knows Your Niche
A common misconception in PR is that you need to reach the most eyeballs possible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter what your industry or niche is, you need to be educating and engaging your target market, not merely a large, general audience.
Identify and vet the firm you work with to ensure that it not only has experience in your niche specifically, but that it also has a firm grasp on how to help you engage with your market. The adage “No news is good news” doesn’t apply when you’re looking to invest time, money, and resources in return for results.
5. Look for Skills and Processes You Don’t Have
When you’re looking for a firm to help take your business to the next level, make sure you hire one that can accomplish things you couldn’t do yourself. Decide what you’re looking for, and find a firm that specializes in executing that. A lot of businesses think they just need to hire a full-service PR or marketing firm and don’t see a true return on investment because the firm is spread too thin.
6. Ask for Case Studies
Ask for case studies showing which reputable companies a firm has worked with, as well as what kind of success they showed their clients. Then, ask how the team plans to achieve that same success for you.
When it comes to outsourcing, particularly with public relations, you need to establish a carefully thought-out partnership. Hiring on a whim and hoping that everything goes well is a recipe for disappointment. As a company leader, you must clearly understand your needs, your goals for the hire, the skillset of the firm you’re hiring, and how it plans to execute for your company. Look past the façade, and you’ll never be left wanting more.
Ryan O’Connell is the Vice President at Influence & Co., a company that helps experts build their businesses through thought leadership and content marketing by producing high-quality content for reputable publications. You can reach out to Ryan on Twitter @Oconnellryan or on Google+.