Choosing the Right Public Relations (PR) Firm – 5 Helpful Tips

If there is one industry that has become overly saturated these days it is the field of Public Relations. It seems that PR Firms are cropping up faster than weeds, and the process of sorting through the slush to choose a public relations company of quality can be a daunting and overwhelming process, to say the least.

This article offers you 5 helpful tips that can hopefully make the journey of choosing a PR Firm or a publicist a little bit easier and more streamlined, so that you can get the most bang for your public relations buck, and actually see a return on your investment.

Five Tips For Choosing The Right PR Firm For You

1. Size – Are you seeking a large corporate PR Firm, a mid-size firm or a small or boutique firm?

The question I pose is not a black and white one. The answer to this question must be determined by several things. Your budget, how much hand holding and personal attention you require, how far you want your public relations outreach to be, and your desire for a team working on your account or for just one or two ambitious publicists working on your account. Large corporate public relations firms generally charge between $10,000 and $20,000 per month for their basic retainer services, so budget is a huge factor here. To a company like Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson this is a drop in the bucket. But to a small or medium sized company that type of fee is far out of reach. The benefits of a large national and sometimes international firm is the wide reach your brand can achieve, a large team working on your account, a large pool of other clients who are with that firm from that your company can possibly network with and benefit from. These large firms generally have a ton of experience on their side. Many of these large PR Firms are 20, 30 or 50 plus years old. The downside of these large firms aside from the hefty monthly fee is the amount of bureaucracy and red tape involved in the day to day functions of the company, and unfortunately this can often lead to smaller clients falling through the cracks. Another minus to working with large PR Firms is the lack of personal touch and attention, which is fine for established companies but not as good for start ups, small and medium sized companies who require more nurturing, more brand development and other complimentary services like writing and basic marketing assistance.

Smaller public relations firms tend to offer monthly retainers that can range anywhere from $7000.00 all the way down to about $2500.00 depending on how much overhead that firm has, their level of experience and expertise, their particular public relations niche, their contacts and how much time they plan to devote to your account. Most PR Firms out there tend to fall into the mid-size, boutique or small category and are also very effective at doing their job.

2. Ignore the Hype and Look at a Public Relations Firm’s Portfolio of Work!

I cannot stress this enough. In perusing some colleagues’ websites recently I was shocked to observe that some of these websites have flashy graphics, catchy promotional copy about their services, and glossy images but NO examples of their media placements, marketing case studies, writing samples… nada! Where is their work? Don’t fall for public relations firms that are all flash and no substance. Always, and I mean always look to see if their website is packed with examples of past projects, past examples of media placements and other examples of work created by the firm. Look over the work that is displayed on their website and when speaking with a representative from that public relations firms ask them to elaborate on their body of work. Some great questions:

What media placements are you most proud of? How was that media placement achieved by your firm? What is your firms biggest strength? Can you tell me some of your contacts in the media? Can you give me some marketing case studies? Some public relations case studies? What sets your firm apart?

3. Make sure you are a match: Assessing values, vision and creativitiy

The above sentence is pretty self-explanatory but I will elaborate. This publicist or pr team will be your brand ambassador. You want someone whose values reflect your own values. You also want to be sure that your publicist understands, appreciates and shares your vision for your company or organization. If a PR Firm wants to pitch your beauty brand as an elite, untouchable, prestige brand and you want your beauty product to speak to the every-woman, showing her how beauty can be accessible to all women, then that publicist may have a vision that is not in line with yours and things will likely go from perplexing to downright tense. A good trick is, when speaking to a potential publicist ask him or her how they see your product, who they think your audience/demo is and how they envision positioning the product to the media and to potentiial consumers. Don’t expect them to go into too much detail before really delving into the product line, but they should give you a basic pitch that falls in line with your own vision. If not, move on.

4. Are you in it for Website traffic, magazine placements, TV appearances? What is it you want? Be specific!

Don’t be shy about what it is you want. Why are you searching for public relations services in the first place? Really sit down and think about it. And don’t be shy about your needs. Is your main objective to build a strong targeted online following to drive quality traffic to your website and convert visitors into sales? Is your main objective someone who can write outstanding copy for your business like press releases, articles, pitch copy to send to media outlets, etc.? Is your main objective to become something of a personality and expert in your field and to build a resume as someone who makes appearances on television news programs giving advice to promote yourself as a brand and an expert? Figure out what your goals are and choose a PR Firm that is strong in your area of interest.

5. Location, location, location

In the age of email, fax machines, long distance phone plans and inexpenseive air travel the location of your public relations firm may not matter to you… or it might. Do you want lots of face time with your publicist or do you not care if your publicist is in Timbuck Tu as long as they can get the job done, and get your company press coverage? Everyone’s comfort level with location is different and there is no right or wrong. If you are looking for entertainment public relations you may set your sights on a PR Firm that is in Los Angeles or in New York. If you are an up and coming Internet company you may find value in a San Francisco based PR Firm. Fashion, New York may be the way to go for you, unless your fashion line is a range of swimsuits; in that case a Miami PR Firm could be the right fit. Looking to attract the Latin market, again, Miami could be the key for you.

Or, you may simply look for a public relations firm with a rolodex of contacts in a particular city or industry, regardless of their brick and mortar location.

5 Personality Traits You Need to Succeed in Public Relations

A colleague new to my agency once regaled us with a conversation he had with an older cousin of his at a family wedding. My colleague, then new at the job, excitedly told his cousin about his new job as a public relations (PR) executive in a boutique PR agency. Unexpectedly, instead of complimenting him on his new career path, the cousin smiled sadly and clapped him on the back.

“I used to do public relations at my old company,” she said. “Good luck. You’re going to need all of it.”

If you think the life of a PR officer is a glitzy, glamorous one of wining, dining, and ‘networking’ with clients, you have another think coming. Ranked by Forbes as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the world, it is no secret to anyone in the industry that public relations is a highly challenging career path for anyone to take up.

On the flipside, this challenge is what also makes public relations one of the most satisfying careers in the world. There is almost nothing more satisfying than having the press release you have painstakingly amended time and time again getting snapped up for coverage by the media, or having your client congratulate you for overwhelmingly successful results of the PR campaign you and your team had spent hours brainstorming months before.

It is tiring work, but when it pays off, the satisfaction is sublime – mostly because good PR ideas, like all creative outputs, are very personal, and also because of how increasingly necessary it is for a company to practice good public relations.

In an era where instant communication is readily available to the masses, public relations has become vastly more relevant than ever before. The industry has also transformed with the growing need for Online PR, Blogger PR and Social Media Marketing, especially in such a time where communications technology is so widely available and seamless. With the relentless spread of information about everyone and everything, at anytime, it has become more important than ever for businesses to 1) focus on managing the perceptions of their consumers, and 2) gain their attention in a world where attention is becoming an increasingly scarce resource – exactly the roles PR practitioners were made to play.

Do you have what it takes to excel in public relations? Here are 5 personality traits that you will need.

1) Time-Management

Having excellent time-management skills will always be a significant aid to you in any career. However, time-management is especially important in PR, especially in an agency environment where one has to juggle multiple accounts at once. Your email inbox will never stop buzzing, your office phone will never stop ringing, and the ‘URGENT’, ‘IMPORTANT’ tasks on your to-do-list will never stop coming. It is important to be able to prioritise all of these tasks, and to manage your time effectively enough to respond swiftly and efficiently to every one of your client’s enquiries.

In short, if you want to succeed in this industry, dust off that planner you got for Christmas – it will quickly become full in no time at all.

2) Communication

This may seem like a no-brainer, seeing as public relations is, first and foremost, a communications industry. But it is impossible to overstate the importance of being able to communicate clearly and concisely in public relations. It is not just about being able to charm your clients and sweet-talk to the media – we live in a world where the attention span of the average consumer is becoming shorter and shorter, and subsequently, the word-limits for communication too.

Having good communication skills is not all about having an extensive vocabulary, impeccable grammar, and speaking with confidence any longer. You need to be able to grab your audience’s attention by its shirt lapels and keep it there in the simplest way possible.

3) Familiarity with Technology

Technophobia is simply not an option if you want to enter the communications industry. While traditional media and press releases are still the bread and butter of public relations, consumer attention is becoming increasingly focused on the web these days. Take a good look at any recent publicity campaign. More often than not they are centered on smartphone apps, social media movements, or viral videos. To produce these things, a good public relations officer will need to comfortably wield an arsenal of social media, software, and hardware.

4) Creativity

A memorable quote from Thank You For Smoking, a film about a smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist: “That’s the beauty of argument. If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”

While the film is not specifically about the public relations industry, this line is extremely applicable. Clients are not always going to provide things that are immediately appealing to the public. If they did, they would not require public relations at all. However, every account you are assigned to will have something interesting to publicize – it is only a question of angling it in the right way, which is the job of everyone in public relations.

Be creative. Find the appealing angle.

5) Responsibility

This is the last item on our list, but it certainly isn’t the least. From having an astute eye for small details in the content your produce for clients, being quick to respond to client and media inquiries, having a fervor to learn new things to better serve your clients, to being able to promise clients results and actually deliver them, having a strong sense of responsibility is intrinsic in all aspects of public relations.

Solving the Public Relations Puzzle

You often hear people refer to public relations or PR as something positive or negative that a company received in response to an action. “Wow, they got good PR out of that!” But, what exactly does that mean?

The confusion about what public relations is or what it encompasses is not surprising given that the field is so multi-faceted. Research will show that the term public relations is often grouped under marketing and used synonymously with others such as community relations, media relations, public affairs, image enhancement, publicity, and promotion.

In fact, leading experts in the PR field often disagree, offering numerous definitions for clarification. Rex Harlow, a pioneer in public relations education, complied over 500 definitions from a variety of sources ranging from complex essays to simple descriptions. One of my favorites is, “PR stands for Performance and then Recognition.”

In 1981, the Public Relations Society of America attempted to end the confusion, by forming a task force with the mission of defining public relations once and for all. They landed on this concise definition, “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to one another. It is an organizations efforts to win the cooperation of groups of people.”

But the real question is, why does this matter? Why should I understand and have a need for public relations in my business? Authors Cutlip, Center, & Broom offer some help to these questions. In the sixth edition of their reference book, Effective Public Relations, They state that public relations is, “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom it’s success or failure depend.”

This definition is great in that it, first, identifies that public relations does not just happen. It is truly a function that must be created. Second, this definition contains the key phrase, “success or failure.” This is why public relations efforts are so essential. How your company interacts with and represents itself to the world will determine the fate of your company.

We know that the definition of public relations is ever evolving and often disputed. However, there is one clear and common thread that is woven throughout these definitions. They all involve relationships and interactions. Simply put, public relations is all about communication. It is working to produce effective communication designed to influence, provide information, and gain understanding.

Perhaps the most understood public relations action is use of the media to communicate with and promote to target markets. Submitting press releases, gaining exposure, and developing promotional campaigns is something we can sink our teeth into. However, it is important not to confuse advertising and public relations. Advertising is a paid tool that can be used to support public relations efforts. When used effectively together, the two can make a powerful team.

Keep in mind that media relations and publicity are just a few of the many areas of public relations. Effective communications need to occur with all of your “publics” both internal and external. For example, your business cannot function without clear understanding and communication with your bankers, investors, and/or board members. You depend on a relationship with your local community to support your efforts. And, you rely upon your employees to support your image. Public relations involves developing and implementing a successful communication plan to work with and among these groups for the benefit of all.

And, what happens when things don’t turn out as planned? Enter public relations again! Public relations efforts must be pro-active in order to protect the image and reputation of the company. From crisis planning to the simple development of clear responses to community questions, it is in the best interest of the company and their publics to be prepared.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about public relations is that the field itself has a poor image. For some, the term PR tends to conjure up thoughts of deceptive and self-serving rhetoric. They picture obnoxious, celebrity press agents of today who believe that any press is good press. Some picture historical event promoters such as P.T. Barnum, of Barnum & Bailey Circus, who use exaggeration and hype to entertain.

Unfortunately, it is true that not everyone engaging in public relations activities is acting in the best public interest. But it is also important to understand there are wonderful, ethical, and positive public relations actions taking place all around us. In fact, without them, we would be a lost society.

The art of public relations is one that has deep and historical roots. In a sense, it’s as old as communication itself. Government, religion, and business have and always will rely on public relations. Think about it, what would be different in our world if the Catholic Church hadn’t taught its priests to “propagate” the faith? Without communications developed to influence targeted publics, how would we be persuaded to accept the authority of government leaders or to take a position on a public issue? We can even thank event promoters in ancient Athens for building the foundation for special event planning of today. It takes the same basic public relations skills to promote the Olympics then that it does now…now that’s an event!

Public relations efforts are essential to business success and growth. And, opportunities to use public relations activities to better your company and your bottom-line are endless. Ann Landers point out, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them!” Don’t make this mistake by ignoring the power of public relations. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Public Relations Jobs – How to Be Effective in Public Relations

Every company or business needs to promote their establishment so that they can get more business and result in their development. Also, all these establishments also need to promote themselves with financers and sponsors so that they can get the proper finance to start their new courses of development. Both of these conditions are the specifications for which the company has to have a public relations departments department. This is also the reason why public relations jobs are very popular amongst people. It is because they are so common and they are a necessity for every small business, big enterprise or even individual ownership.

PR stands for public relations. As the name suggests, the job entails that the personnel should have the necessary qualities to link or relate to the public that they want to advertise or promote their products to. As such the target customer group definitely falls under the category of this kind of public. What is also interesting to note is that the financers or the promoters also fall under the category of public when it comes to public relations of the company. This is specifically why the public relations department personnel have to relate to the customer while they are making a sales pitch. They also have to relate to the financers when they are promoting their product and the reason why the product should be launched in the market.

It is necessary for this type of job, which the person has marketing abilities but the most important specification for this job is people skills. There are also a variety of degrees and courses available for the field nowadays. Everyone who wants to start their career in this field can always opt for this opportunity to train themselves in the field and its nuances. However, as much as one qualification are necessary for this job, the experience required for the job is also very important and sometimes on job training is more beneficial than any course or degree whatsoever.

This is why many companies offer this type of training at entry level public relations jobs. Public affairs jobs also fall under the category of PR jobs. The personnel who are interested in moving up the ranks in this department have to be very persistent with their training and also gather qualifications such as a management degree in public relations or they should opt for public relations internships.

Public relations jobs are so versatile that they are not bound to any particular field. Every company working in any kind of field needs to have a PR department so that they can promote themselves and their product. Fashion PR jobs include the personnel to relate to the media in which it is necessary to publish and promote the products of the fashion house or the fashion department. It is necessary for the PR personnel to know about the nuances of the media as well because they have to constantly interact with them in the course of their job. The Internet, local newspapers and the local cable channels are excellent sources of information when it comes to finding the perfect PR job.