I recently had a business owner tell me that he had spoken to two of our competitors and they both scared him out of wanting to use a PR firm for his business’ media relations and PR services.
“Scared?” I questioned him, wanting to know more about the experience and what in the world my colleagues in the profession are saying to scare him away like that.
His response was that one firm wanted to charge him more than $15,000-a-month to write a couple of press releases and pitch reporters in his home state. The other firm said they specialize in one core industry and that the tactics they use there would be the same for his business and its industry and that he didn’t need to worry about how they work.
Those responses are downright scary, and I believe they reflect negatively on our industry.
Our conversation about monthly retainers and billables calmed him down. I told him a story about when I had just started Commonwealth PR in 2009 and another independent practitioner told me: “stop billing people so low because I was undercutting everyone else.” Well, isn’t that the point of capitalism and why we own a business – to get the work and make money?
Back then, I was working from home and could afford to set my rates at whatever level I wanted. Today, we have an office downtown, multiple employees and contractors, and lots of expenses. That still doesn’t mean we set a specific rate for any and all companies. As a business owner who has been through the start-up phase and other seasons (note our brand tagline: Strategic Communications for All Seasons of Business), I understand that companies are at different places in their journey. That shouldn’t limit them from getting professional assistance with their PR efforts.
Regarding his second fear of working with someone that does everything the same – it’s a valid one in our industry. PR practitioners should be thinking strategically about each and every client. The tactic of writing and pitching a press release doesn’t work for every company. They might see better results with a letter-writing campaign, for example. Business owners who are willing to invest in someone else desire creative and strategic thinking.
When I get a call from a company wanting to know what it’s like to work with us, one of the first things I will ask is, “Have you ever worked with an agency before?” This will tell me a lot about their understanding of the expense involved and how to work effectively with an outside team.
If you’re searching for an agency and want to conquer your fears, here are five questions you should ask the PR firm that wants your business:
- Can you demonstrate real results and if so, what do they look like?
- Do you have to pay a retainer?
- What recommendations does your firm have for how we should work together?
- How transparent is your firm?
- What extra perks are offered if we hire your team?
I’m happy to answer each and every one of these. If the person you are talking to isn’t, you should be scared.
So, what happened to the gentlemen that had received all that frightening information? His real estate company has requested a proposal and we have been totally transparent through the entire process, which should lead to a positive outcome.
Hiring a PR firm shouldn’t be scary. Our clients will say that it isn’t.
Questions? Let’s talk. I’d be happy to share more about how we work with companies to help them utilize strategic PR programs to drive bottom line results.