What you need to know to get and keep new business. Edited by Ann Lee Gibson
Have you seen your competition featured in the newspaper? Or attended an event where the keynote presenter spoke in your area of expertise? Did you think, “Why wasn’t that me?”
Maybe you’ve considered launching a publicity campaign on your own but determined that you don’t have the time, know-how or desire to manage it. If you’re not happy about your firm’s awareness, or lack of it, you may want to think about hiring a PR firm. Here are five things to address before you do.
1. Know your goals. Revisit your firm’s overall business objectives. If you don’t already have them written out, do that now. Then think about what kind of publicity will help you meet those objectives. Write PR goals, too. Do some homework to find out what’s possible. These are important preliminary steps to help find your kindred PR firm.
2. Calculate your budget. Know what you can afford to spend. PR firms span the gamut in terms of pricing, and some have several pricing structures—per project, monthly retainer or even an hourly rate. A small firm may charge $1,000 for a project and a large agency $10,000-plus per month. You may not need a big expensive agency. If they ask you what your budget is, tell them.
3. Shop around. If you were hiring an employee, you would go through an interview process. Do the same when retaining PR expertise. Start with a list of three to five firms that you’ve been referred to or found through a professional organization. Check out their Web sites. Call or e-mail and get answers to these questions: What is their background? Do they have experience working with law firms? Who are some of their clients? Who will work on your account? How often will you see or hear from them? If it’s a small agency, does it have tools similar to the larger firms?
4. Consider expertise and chemistry, too. Price is important, but it’s not the only factor. When you’ve narrowed the playing field, set up meetings to talk with the individuals that would be working on your account. Do you like them? A firm’s expertise is critical. Check out their writing, their clips and other work samples. Ask for references. Finally, get a proposal, not a sales presentation. Evaluate for creativity and substance.
5. What you’ll get. PR deliverables include media coverage, speaking engagements, marketing communications and special events. However, PR firms also provide assistance with strategy, program and message development. PR is a tremendous opportunity to reach your target audience. If you find the right firm, you’ll get a teammate who enjoys going to bat for you and revels in your victories.