Should you hire a PR firm?

Efficacy and results rely on an array of factors, so organizations looking to hire a public relations agency must identify their objectives and understand where PR ends and sales picks up.

There comes a time in every career when you work yourself out of a job.

It’s inevitable, but it also marks success.

As painful as it is to lose a client, when we lose one because we’ve taught them how to fish, it means we’ve done our job.

Consider questions such as this: Is a PR firm worth the money?

The answer, of course, is this: It depends on different factors.

Related: Get the most up-to-date PR know-how for your whole team with our PR University membership.

What does PR do?

Most executives and even some PR pros think that if you can just get one more story (ideally on the front page of The New York Times), all your woes will be solved: Products will fly off the shelves, memberships will increase, services will be locked in for five-year contracts, the cash register will sing.

The problem, of course, is that media relations is difficult to measure in terms of business results. It drives a ton of website traffic, builds incredible awareness and provides credibility.

It does all the things you need so you can sell—but it does not, alone, create the sale. That is why, the day after a front-page story runs in The Wall Street Journal, you want more. You have to show a return on your PR firm investment.

Unfortunately, it does not work that way. That’s why entrepreneurs and other business leaders post questions like these:

We’re trying to increase our marketing activities and visibility in the channel to attract new customers. So, we’re considering hiring a public relations firm to help coordinate relationships with the media and write news releases for us. Is a PR firm really worth the money? Are there additional ways they can help my MSP grow?

If your expectation is that the PR firm will increase your visibility in the channel to attract new customers, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The PR firm will be worth the money.

If, however, your expectation is that the PR firm will attract new customers, your sales cycle will decrease by 500 percent, your sales will increase by 300 percent, and you’ll be able to retire to Fiji, the answer is “no.”

That’s an exaggeration, but you’d be amazed at expectations that many CEOs put on a PR firm. They also typically expect to hire the PR firm and walk away, letting the organization do their magic with zero client involvement.

Of course, there are times a PR firm can be a change agent for increasing qualified, inbound leads, but taking those people from lead to customer requires an operational structure most don’t yet have.

Is it just earned media, or a PESO model approach?

We PR pros are working hard to measure our effectiveness. That includes showing a return on investment as it relates to business results.

It begins with an integrated PESO model approach, which can be measured because it involves far more than media relations. It includes building consumer awareness and guiding potential customers through the sales process.

The PR firm is not the closer, however. Salespeople must take the leads the PR firm has generated and close them. Most balk, though, because those are not “their” leads.

Is a PR firm worth the money?

If, as in the example above, you hire a PR firm to “coordinate relationships with the media and write news releases,” I can almost guarantee you will not think them worth the investment.

It will take you less than six months to be unhappy, no matter what relationships they’ve coordinated or how many news releases they’ve written.

If, however, you hire a PR firm to create an integrated PESO model approach, generating qualified leads and engaging those leads through the process, it will be worth the money. That will, however, require a commitment of time and money, an investment in software and a dedication to analytics.

A PR firm is worth the money if it can prove past success in building revenue for its clients. It should show you its average ROI. It probably will have a long list of requirements from you, too, but its reps will know how to acclimate you quickly and effectively.

The results won’t materialize overnight, but depending on how active you are, you can expect to see a return in as little as 90 days.
Again, it depends.

A version of this post first appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.