No matter the size of your business, sometimes you need to bring in outside help to gain expertise or stretch your resources without straining your staff. But how do you know when it’s time to enlist the help of a PR firm?
Public relations firms can’t guarantee you a spot on the Today Show or even on the front page of your local paper, but they can use their collective know-how and industry connections to move your business forward. Public relations experts excel at helping you get noticed in a competitive field, building brand recognition, and bringing creative solutions to achieve your business objectives.
So how do you know when to hire a PR firm? The time is now, if:
You have identified business goals or problems to solve.
You’ve got to first have an objective in mind, even if it’s not yet clearly defined. Is it growing your membership base, announcing a new product, evaluating public perception of your company, or adding capacity to your team? An agency can be a strategic partner that moves you toward achieving your goals or helps you get to the bottom of a particular problem you’re having. The relationship is most beneficial when you have a set goal or have identified an area where you need outside perspective.
A launch is on the horizon.
Be it a special event, a capital campaign, a new app, or a housing development, you’ve got something exciting in the works, and people need to know about it! When your staff is working overtime just to make the launch happen while still performing regular business operations, PR may become an afterthought in the frenzy. Forging a relationship with an agency can lighten the load on your team and provide strategic direction for making your launch a success.
It’s time to shake things up.
You may have been following best practices for years, but even the best of us can get into a rut. You’ve heard the saying, “what got you here won’t get you there.” Maybe the problem is that there are new communications tools out there that you haven’t had time to explore (Snapchat anyone?), or maybe you’ve just run out of ideas for sharing your brand’s story in new and interesting ways. The fresh perspective and clarity a PR firm brings to the relationship may be the shot in the arm you need to craft and execute a more effective communications plan.
Your company is in crisis mode.
There’s never a good time for a crisis, is there? It’s hard to drop everything to deal with the problem at hand, but that’s exactly what you should do. And a professional who has coached other businesses through their troubles can do the same for you. A PR team can assist you with handling media relations and communicating with employees. They can also give you tactical assistance with things like crafting messages, setting up a website, writing web and social media copy, and all manner of communications needs while your staff focuses on resolving the issue that brought on the crisis.
You have a small team.
Especially in non-profits and small businesses, employees wear many hats. If the person handling your public relations is the same person keeping the books, managing a team of volunteers, and doing a whole host of other jobs, a PR consultant can be your ideal solution. For less than the cost of a full-time employee, you gain a team member – or several! – with the expertise you need to drive your business forward. And, you free up staff time to let your employees focus on the areas where they excel. If you’re not able to hire an agency on an ongoing basis, you can still benefit from a shorter-term engagement where the firm conducts market research and prepares a strategic communications plan for your team to implement. Simply gaining that guidebook for your team is well worth the investment.
Your staff is in flux.
Mastering the brand voice, learning key message points, or simply tracking down an approved copy of your logo and boilerplate take time and present significant challenges without staff continuity. If your business or department is experiencing vacancies or reorganizations that have left you short on communications know-how, a PR firm can bridge the gap to keep your public relations plan on course until the team is in place and each person has settled into their role.
Of course, these aren’t the ONLY times it makes sense to work with a communications consultant, but these instances are excellent opportunities for taking advantage of the guidance and relationships a PR firm can bring to the table.
One last thing – Keep in mind that fit is everything when looking for the right firm. Check out their website, meet the people who will be handling your account, ask for referrals, and do your own due diligence to make sure you’re comfortable with the people who will be working closely with you. For the best results, pick the group that brings the right skills and best fits with your culture. Read our blog, Awkward Questions You Should Ask Your Public Relations Agency, for more tips on hiring the right firm.