Earlier today, my team and I reviewed a recent campaign — something we do once the dust settles on every project. We review what we were tasked to do, what the client did in working with us, the flow of information to and from various entities, and what tactics worked.

Considering the number of clients and projects we’ve had over the past sixteen years, it’s about as routine as it gets. But what is continually surprising is how similar the answers are, year over year. As Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Public Relations can do a great many positive things – especially with the incredible tools and technologies we now have at our fingertips. Much of the time, clients expect their PR agencies to solve basic brand problems they simply cannot.

However, if the company or individual makes a commitment to working with their PR agency, and gives them enough time to achieve their goals, clients usually are exceedingly happy.

Do you need a PR company?

Here are a few guidelines to help you decide:

  • You (and/or your company) are a thought leader in your industry, but need help getting those thoughts out:  The key in being perceived as a leader in any industry is the act of being a leader, and that means expressing your ideas and accomplishments in a meaningful and innovative way. If you have something valuable to say, but are not saying it, a PR agency can help. A word of warning, however: to do this, you must provide your PR practitioner with newsworthy ideas that matter. Your PR agency can help you refine these, but the basic ideas, propositions, original content and other marketable differences must come from you.
  • You’re not afraid of commitment:  Public relations is not only labor intensive, but also takes a great deal of time to implement — just like the rest of your marketing mix. Most PR agencies require a minimum of six months to launch an effective campaign, with longer relationships being very common with happy clients. This also means that clients must bring on their PR providers on as early as possible in the relationship — not at the last minute. Successful PR efforts not only take time; they take effort from the client as well, so that the agency in question has the guidance and content they need to get your brand in the press. Few overnight successes exist, and for good reason – and the campaigns touted as such, show to be carefully planned with plenty of time allotted to get everything in place prior to their execution.
  • Your story has an actual story:  Did you build a better mousetrap? Got an original business idea, like a flying car rental company, or a new way to vacation on the moon? The first question any decent publicist asks themselves is, “Who will really care about this?” If your factual narrative answers that question succinctly, you may need a PR agency. However, if you just want to be famous, or if you don’t really have a story, please don’t waste your resources — you won’t get anywhere, no matter what we do.
  • You/your firm needs press coverage to outdistance your competition:  Here’s the scenario. Your company has a press-worthy enhanced value proposition that will dominate your marketplace, and you believe press coverage will help you take advantage of it. Great! As long as you’re willing to start early and commit to the long haul PR needs to be successful, and you work diligently with your PR team, you can accomplish your goals. But here’s the catch: additional press coverage may not translate into additional sales. This may happen because of breakage in the sales effort, or distribution, or your form of conversion measurement. If you’re getting coverage, the PR people are doing their job. The rest is up to you.
  • Yes, you have a designated budget for PR:  One of the most frustrating moments I have as a PR practitioner is an occasional blank stare when I ask how much money your firm has allocated for PR. Hey – PR is expensive. The minimum most agencies can work for – including a minimal social media effort – ranges between $4,000 to $6,000 per month. Yes, there are some who will do it for less, but I warn you – you get what you pay for.

Is PR labor intensive? You bet.  Long term commitment? If you do it right, absolutely. Detail oriented?  Positively. Expensive? Yep.  But in terms of long term positive impact, there’s no substitute for it. Only a concerted effort at PR will get your brand’s identity cemented in the minds of your audience and push your business forward. Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to my last dollar,  I’d spend it on PR.” He was right. And in our experience, the effort is well worth the reward.