Everyone wants more exposure for their business because the more people you reach, the more sales you make. Right? Actually, efforts to increase your visibility have to be done correctly otherwise, you might be reaching an audience that isn’t interested in your product or service or if you reach the right audience, you might not be sending the right message. What’s a company to do? If you’re looking to hire a public relations firm, you’ll want to make that investment count. Here are 10 questions to ask potential firms:
1. Is your public relations representative consistently communicating a cohesive message?
If you’re reaching the right audience, but you’re bombarding potential customers with mixed messages, how can you expect them to hire you? The message has to be clear. What exactly is your product or service? How can your product or service help them gain pleasure or avoid pain? These two basic principles need to be outlined before you start any campaign and serve as the base of your communication. Otherwise, your potential customers will end up confused and for those customers you do have, their loyalty is at risk.
2. What are their results with other clients?
Don’t be afraid to ask this question. Is it media exposure that you’re interested in? Ask for example of press releases and media clips. Is social media a priority? Ask for the names of clients they perform this service for and then check out their Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, blogs, etc. Better yet, ask if any of these efforts have resulted in increased sales for their clients.
3. Are they business-minded and focused on increasing your customer base?
At the core of every business is one simple word: sales. It’s crucial that your public relations firm understands your sales goals. Again this goes back to knowing your audience and knowing what message to communicate to them. If the firm isn’t actively interested in your sales, you can pretty much bet they are just interested in their own sales.
4. What kind of experience does the staff have? Specifically, the team that will be managing your account.
The individuals handling your account will most likely have varied degrees of experience. You’ll want to know that at least one member has enough experience to effectively lead the management of your account. Find out who the point person will be and be sure they’ve sat in on the preliminary meetings with you.
5. Are they creative and does the creativity have a purpose?
You want your brand to stand out from the crowd, but what happens when creativity goes bad? If the message is so creative that no one understands it, or even worse, people liked the message but don’t remember the company tied to the message, you will have a problem on your hands. This is not to say that you can never take risks but be prepared. The best preparation is to have a solid base to your communication efforts.
6. Do they think objectively from the customers’ point-of-view?
Whether the public relations firm is writing a press release or launching an expensive campaign, the message has to go back to one principle: What’s in it for me? If the firm is distributing information that is talking about the features of your company versus the benefits, the communication effort will fail. What if you were the consumer? What’s interesting to you and your friends? Find the angle that best fits your audience. It is crucial that your public relations firm understands this.
7. Do they have media relationships?
Notice I wrote, “relationships” and not “contacts.” Today’s world of journalism is extremely fast-paced and competitive. Having relationships with reporters, publishers, producers, etc. is extremely important because if they know your public relations representative, they’ll be more likely to take their call or read their email. Not to say they need to know every person who works in the media, but you’ll want to know they have relationships with media that are key to your business.
8. Are they realistic or do they over-promise?
I’ve heard of firms that will promote events and will tell the client that every paper, magazine and television station will be in attendance. That’s unlikely and most of the time the client ends up disappointed. I would shy away from any firm that promises the world.
9. How long have they been involved in social media and are they active in education?
Social media is growing component to public relations. There is an entirely different strategy involved in social media. Are they active with it and how long have they been involved? It’s also important to ask about education because social media is still in the growth and development stage. It’s growing very quickly and your representative should be keeping up on the latest developments to help you keep up with the competition.
10. Do they have strong writing skills?
Last, but certainly not least, do they have good writing skills? Do they know Associated Press Style (the style that media uses)? Can they be creative and concise? Do they understand how to write for different mediums (e.g., blogs, microblogs, newsletters, brochures, websites, press releases, media alerts, etc.)?
Asking these questions will undoubtedly help you determine which is the right public relations firm for you. Have more questions? Feel free to post them in the comments section.