Remember the days when you could setup a box or two, fill a pitcher with water and lemonade powder, and have an instant business? Five cents would buy a person a glass of overpowering lemonade. You would sit outside for hours and wait for passing motorists to pull up and buy a refreshing beverage. Life was good. Your product cost was zero, because Mom paid for it. You could drink your inventory without repercussions. You were business owner, sales staff, supplier, and janitorial all in one.
Publicity came easy back then. After all, you were local, and just needed a couple of cardboard signs with arrows that said: Lemonade 5 Cents.---> And if business was slow, you could go door to door, and let your customer base know you were actively in business.
Unfortunately, we grew up (at least some of us did - my wife's still wondering about me...)
Now, we have a much larger business to deal with, and it takes a little more than a cardboard sign that says: Integrated electronic components, $2,594.95 each. --->
Advertising and classic marketing principles are key to succeeding in business. Of course, public relations plays a role in that process. How much of a role depends on many things, especially your time, commitment level, and past experience.
As you're aware, GreatPR and 101PublicRelations.com are dedicated to giving you the tools you need to perform many public relations activities on your own. But there clearly is a time, place, and need for professional publicists.
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a publicist:
-- Publicists generally have a long list of contacts with news agencies, advertising firms, and others that you don't. This means better access to publicity channels. There are clearly advantages of working with someone who has a relationship with and who talks with the key reporter for your business several times a month, rather than having you try to cold call that person to pitch your story.
-- A publicist does this sort of stuff all day long. Good ones know what works, what doesn't, and can probably find new and creative ideas that you never thought of.
-- They have time to construct a publicity plan, and implement it. Presumably, you don't. They leave you the time to do the things you do best: run a business, market a business, or lay around on the beach...
-- Chances are that the publicist you hire will have multiple clients. They will probably be able to cross-pollinate to get mass publicity for all. This can help you if your name is even remotely associated with other large, well-known, good companies.
-- The good ones have mounds of examples and/or experience they can draw upon to generate new ideas to help your company get out of its PR comfort zone, to get you attention.
But, unfortunately, there are some disadvantages...
-- The first and most obvious disadvantage is the cost. Publicists can be very expensive.
-- By having a publicist do the work, you don't develop the expertise that could have you doing the work yourself.
-- A publicist has little to no inside knowledge of your company. That can present difficulties when your publicity run involves complex information. Making them an expert in your company will cost you, either directly through a billable hour charge or that cost will be embedded in a project's cost so that you won't see it, but it will cost you.
-- The publicist gains all the benefits of the personal relationships with the media instead of you. This can be a problem if you decide to leave the publicist and work with the media directly at some future point.
-- When the media has questions, who do you want them to call, you or the publicist? You can bet they will call the publicist.
-- The quality range of publicists is amazingly diverse. It can be hard to determine how good of a publicist you have hired. A bad publicist is like a dead fish. They stink, badly!
-- Some publicists really love to hold huge publicity events, which can cost tons of money and generate either huge amounts of publicity, or possibly, none at all. Just be careful that any agency you hire focuses on the basics first, turning to major splashy events only once the basics are in place.
-- Lastly, the bigger the agency, the more likely it will be that you are assigned a low ranking publicist. That doesn't mean they are bad. It just means that they have not had the chances to prove themselves. You need to realize that even though you're paying for a big publicist name, you're actually working with a newbie who's ink on their diploma isn't even dry yet.
So, is it a good idea to hire a publicist or not?
The key questions you should consider are:
- What kind of relationships do you currently have with the media? If they're weak, that's a point in the publicist's favor.
- Are you spending as much time as you would like in the area of publicity? As you consider the way you actually use your time, is PR getting prioritized or not? If no, perhaps you need a professional working on it for you.
- How much PR success are you having right now? If little, there's another point in their favor.
Keep in mind also, that it's possible to hire a publicist for a specific project. That work will cost more then the exact same work done as part of a retainer, because they will have to put all of the overhead onto that single project instead of amortizing it over the year, but it's a good way to test the water.
The real key to your success in hiring a publicist is which one you choose. If you choose the right one, and work with them well, you're likely to have success. Choose the wrong one, or work with them poorly, and you're destined to (my daughter's word) "miserability."
Need more help in determining whether a publicist is right for you and advice on how to make the key choice of which one to hire? Our new training manual "How to Hire the Perfect Publicist" gives you great information, checklists, and the tips you need to make the choice.
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