You want some editorial and you don’t know where to start. Your friends suggest hiring a PR agency or a consultant, they may even recommend some for you. Be warned, the only people that can tell you if a PR is really any good is a journalist.
Sure, a PR company can present you with an impressive pitch with previous ‘success stories’ and how they can turn your product into a similar media success story but we can all play with Powerpoint for our benefit.
Yes, they may have secured significant editorial, you won’t be working in PR if you can’t get someone’s name in print somewhere. Yes, they may even have other PRs singing their praises, everyone has hidden friendship agendas and contra kickbacks. But the people you really want to talk to are not their former clients, or their mates in the industry, it’s the journalists on the frontline.
What reputation does the PR firm have with the media? And don’t just ask the journalists they already work with, talk to the ones they don’t and find out why they don’t.
When travel and tourism operators come to me looking for a PR person I can immediately list three or four I would recommend they work with. Why? Because these three respond to my emails in a timely manner, return my calls, provide relevant information to me, don’t bombard my inbox with irrelevant material, don’t leave me off invite lists because ‘I’m not in the clique’, treat me like a professional and in turn behave like professionals.
I know plenty of PR agencies who should know better, who get big name clients because of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ philosophy. He who sings loud enough, he who believes his own hype, he who talks the talk gets heard the most.
These named agencies stick to their tried and tested formula, spitting out x number of press releases, inviting the same people to the event and getting the same coverage. Yet if they tweaked the way they work, just a little, they could double that editorial output simply by developing new relationships not just pandering to old ones.
Don’t be afraid to approach a journo and say “I’m looking to employ a PR agency and I was wanting your feedback on this agency” or “maybe you could tell me who is easy to deal with”. I’m happy to tell you because the more clients the good ones get the less rubbish I have to filter through my inbox. It’s a win win question with a win win answer.
Most journalists love to give you their opinion, just don’t call them on deadline day (that’s a whole other blog).