Hiring a public relations agency (P.R. agency) or publicist can be a great way for businesses to improve their image and reputation, as well as increase their visibility. However, it’s important for businesses to avoid making mistakes when choosing a PR agency or publicist, since these mistakes can lead to wasted time and money, and even damage to the business’s reputation.
As a former national network TV talk show producer, Marianne Schwab has worked with P.R. Agencies for over twenty-five years and shares some insight on what to do look for to make a good match with an agency and the business they’ll be representing. She says, “When I produced daily talk shows, I got a lot of pitches from P.R. agencies and some were great, but many publicists were kind of clueless and didn’t understand how to effectively pitch television talk shows to get results for their clients. Overall, publicists are generalists in P.R. and have to pitch print publications like magazines and newspapers or online publications so pitching broadcast outlets like podcasts, radio, and television talks shows and news programs requires an entirely different skill set and contact database that many publicists don’t have.”
Schwab says when businesses or entrepreneurs hire a PR agency or publicist they need to avoid making these mistakes because they won’t just cost money, but they’ll end up with little to no media results which is the goal when investing in a public relations campaign.
Mistake #1 – Not doing their homework. It’s important for businesses to thoroughly research and compare different PR agencies or publicists before making a hiring decision. This includes looking at the agency’s or publicist’s track record, understanding their approach to P.R., and getting references from other clients that include the media results. Schwab says, “It’s also important to look at the types of clients they have worked with and are currently representing for two reasons. First, they need to be the right fit for your industry or aligned with your brand, and second, confirm that they do not currently represent any competitors which would be a conflict of interest. This can sometimes be tricky if you’re thinking about working with a brand that specializes in beauty and skin care. On one hand, they have developed media contacts for that industry that can help you, but on the other hand, they may represent competing products or brands and that can be an issue.”
Mistake #2 – Failing to set clear and realistic goals or objectives. Before hiring a PR agency or publicist, it’s crucial for businesses to have a clear idea of what they hope to achieve through public relations. Goals might include increasing brand awareness, improving media coverage, or managing a crisis, but should also be measurable like securing a specific number of placements in print and broadcast with a specific number of impressions for the audience as well. “PR campaigns do take time to get traction and produce results so you need to be realistic about the time not only needed to achieve these goals,” Schwab says, “but also do not expect national coverage when local media may be far more effective and realistic.”
Mistake #3 – Not communicating effectively. Communication is key to the success of any PR campaign. It’s important for businesses to provide their PR agency or publicist with all relevant information they need to represent the client, including details about the business and its products or services, as well as any challenges or issues that need to be addressed. In turn, the PR agency or publicist should keep the business informed about the progress of the campaign and any opportunities or challenges that arise.
Mistake #4 – Not being open to expert consultation or feedback. A good PR agency or publicist will provide honest and constructive feedback to help the business improve its PR efforts. It’s important for businesses to be open to this feedback and be willing to make changes based on it. Marianne Schwab advises, “Remember that you have hired an expert and your results will depend on how much you respect their advice and heed it. I always love when a client is open to ideas that may push the envelope just a bit since those are the pitches that get the best results.”
Mistake #5 – Overpaying for services: There are also other considerations especially when it comes to the fee for public relations services. “I’ve seen some small businesses and entrepreneurs get talked into buying ‘too much P.R.’ for the size of their business. Retainers for small agencies start around $3,000 per month and the major P.R. agencies charge up to $25,000 and more. Small companies don’t need a big agency and it breaks my heart when I see them invest a boatload of money and get little to no results in media placements especially when I know I can guarantee meaningful media placements for clients,” Schwab comments.
By avoiding these mistakes, businesses can improve their chances of success when working with a PR agency or publicist. A well-planned and executed PR campaign can be a valuable investment for any business, helping to build its reputation and reach new audiences.
Marianne Schwab has worked as a producer for over 25 years in New York and Los Angeles. She is currently the Executive Producer of CMP Media Cafe where she works with clients to develop compelling media hooks and story angles that get them TV and radio interviews in today’s complicated media environment. She shares tips on Instagram and has created an online training that shares her insider secrets to promoting a business on TV talk shows and details the types of guests producers love to book as guests.