Deciding whether or not to hire a PR agency can be a confusing process for most startups. Let’s be honest – if you own a business at some point or another (unless you’ve been living under a rock), you’ve probably asked yourself this exact question. Really, I don’t blame you. In today’s era of digital marketing, social media and high visibility platforms on which to connect with your customers, hiring a PR agency might seem like a waste of money.
So, why the hell should I hire a PR agency?
As a PR professional, it’s been my job (and my sincere enjoyment) to answer this question and others like it for years. Although critics of 21st century PR agencies are quick to point out that social media and online advertising have become a highly effective DIY industry, this simply isn’t the case. After all, the more people who feel compelled to begin marketing their brands online, the harder it becomes to cut through the noise. It’s the job of PR agencies to find unique and compelling strategies through which the products, services and brand identities achieve the visibility they deserve. Next time you find yourself asking whether or not you could moonlight as your own PR team, here are just a few reasons you might want to think twice.
PR isn’t just a unique branch of marketing. PR is a skill.
Don’t be confused: PR is not synonymous with the word “marketing”. While PR is certainly a form of marketing, the two professions should not be used interchangeably. PR is almost exclusively dedicated to the idea of communications, branding and getting a message out via the path of least resistance. PR agencies devote considerable time and energy to crafting a strong, resonant voice for clients that can be perpetuated throughout the real-world, print and digital domains.
After all, it doesn’t matter how many people you can get your brand in front of if you aren’t saying the right thing. PR companies help you craft your message in a way that people will actually hear what you’re saying.
Once your messaging guidelines have been established, the use of a media relations strategy can help you get your message out the most effective way possible via influencers who already have clout in your industry. Is it easier to try and reach 10,000 customers individually or build relationships with the 4 or 5 bloggers and influencers who already have relationships with those customers? The answer is a no-brainer.
The PR profession has changed noticeably throughout the last decade. As internet technology has evolved, PR teams have begun developing new methods by which businesses can creating a meaningful, personal impact with their customers that extends far beyond cheap advertisements or automated e-mail blasts. The bottom line is that a core objective of all PR firms is to spread their clients’ message as far and wide as possible.
PR applies to every element of your business.
Nearly all of the events surrounding the launch, development and growth of your business are worth communicating to your customers, and yet it’s quite probable that they have been kept in the dark about things that would help them feel even more loyal than they already are. But odds are, you simply don’t have the time to communicate everything you should be communicating. This is where PR comes into play. PR agencies create specific campaigns for countless attributes of their clients’ businesses, including:
- company events
- seasonal rebranding
- product / service announcements
- crowdfunding promotionals
- leadership changes
- company expansion.
- charitable giving and volunteer work
These scenarios aren’t merely “one-off” happenings that should remain the knowledge of employees and industry professionals exclusively. Savvy PR firms can transform even the most mundane details of the aforementioned events into compelling case studies, anecdotes and first-person narratives, all of which serve to impart an additional degree of charisma and personality on a business that can help it stand out from the pack.
Best of all, PR and media relations placements don’t communicate things in the form of advertisements that are obviously biased. Well placed PR placements come from credible third party sources such as bloggers, journalists and reporters, which automatically give your news more credibility than if you advertised the announcement yourself.
Bad press happens. PR comes prepared.
Damage control is a priceless resource in today’s cutthroat economic climate. One blunder or misstep can quickly result in an unhappy customer voicing their complaints to an online audience of millions. Believe it or not, small businesses across the country have been reduced to rubble on many occasions due to highly critical complaints placed on key social media platforms. But unfortunately, it’s impossible to expect perfect reviews all the time.
It’s inevitable that at some point or another you may leave your customers feeling angry, frustrated and/or otherwise unsatisfied. If you’ve developed a relationship with a PR agency, these professionals can best advise you on how to respond to your customer’s complaints in a manner that is both apologetic, empathetic and, most importantly, constructive. In situations where a wrong move could have devastating side effects, it really pays to have someone on your team who has dealt with these situations before. Think about it. What is your company’s reputation worth?
Results, Results, Results
Ultimately, PR is all about helping your business succeed beyond what it was capable of previously. Although short-term sales boosts are definitely a goal of any PR campaign, the real strength of a well-deployed PR strategy is the long-term benefits it provides. By refining a company’s brand and optimizing their public presence, PR agencies can manipulate and control public sentiment, ensuring that your business develops that enigmatic “it” factor which keeps customers interested far beyond the next sales promotion. By fostering deeply embedded psychological changes regarding how customers view your business, PR agencies can help ensure tremendous growth potential for years to come.
Some of the frustrations and negative commentary that have been heaped on PR agencies and marketing firms in recent years has originated out of miscommunication between the client and the company they have chosen to do business with. Typically, this confusion focuses on the issues of pricing and quality. It is a mistake to believe that a well-executed, highly effective PR strategy will come cheap. If you’re serious about the success of your business, after all, you should be willing to invest in it.
If a PR company promises you outstanding results at cheap prices, they’re probably scamming you. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. There is no shortcut to success. Likewise, if you opt to hire a freelance PR person with limited experience and mediocre reviews, you’ll get what you pay for. A skilled PR team might have a higher upfront investment, but the return on investment you’ll get over the long term can’t be matched by mediocre results.
See Related Story – 5 Questions to Ask Before you Hire a PR Company
If you don’t have enough money to invest in a PR firm for, at minimum, two to three months, then this particular world probably isn’t for you…YET. It takes time to achieve sustainable results, and business owners all too often pull the plug on PR campaigns before they have had the opportunity to develop properly. In order for the PR company you have hired to be as effective as possible, you’re going to have to trust them. (See related Infographic – 5 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a PR Company). Micro-management and not allowing your PR team to do their job the best way they know how simply wastes time, and doesn’t allow these professionals the opportunity to do what they do best – driving attention to your business.
It’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility to believe that there are talented business owners out there who are more than capable of handling their own PR, but the point should be made that the best results are often found when PR is treated like the skill and specialization that it really is. Business owners’ time and energy is usually best spent on what they’re good at and unless the business is a PR company, that’s usually not PR. Just as I wouldn’t expect (nor would anyone else) myself to be capable of successfully operating on a medical patient, business owners should not approach their PR with an overly-cocky DIY mentality.