Three good and three bad reasons to hire a PR agency

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By Linda Forrest

Over the past few weeks, news stories about PR have reinforced what constitutes good reasons to hire a PR agency, as well as bad ones. Why should you, or should you not, engage with a PR agency?

Good reasons to hire a PR agency

1. PR agencies are the first resource journalists turn to when researching a story.

In its post, “Survey says … PR firms (still) the No. 1 source for journalists,” Ragan’s PR Daily blogs about the results of a recent journalist survey conducted by Oriella PR Network:

The No. 1 resource that journalists in this study are using for sourcing was PR agencies, with a whopping 62 percent.

As for the first port of call when researching a news or feature story? PR again! Nearly 22 percent of respondents say their initial stop is a press release.

2. Media coverage will help your company meet its business objectives and PR agencies have experience and expertise that can and will land you the coverage your story deserves.

ZDNet wrote a thoughtful piece a few weeks ago on why startups need and deserve good media coverage. Here’s an excerpt:

Media coverage is very important for startups. It is how they gain respect in their community, it is how they can win investors, and it is invaluable in helping to recruit staff.

Positive media coverage will also help gain users of their products and services, providing valuable marketing services that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But the only reason media coverage of a startup and their product is valuable is that the media coverage is seen as a neutral third party — it has no financial bias in its reporting.

3. An agency offers dedicated communications resources that can cost less than internal hires and that have ability to scale up and down as requirement ebbs and flows.

This blog post from a few years ago does a good job of explaining this, and other, reasons that hiring an outside agency is the way to go.

Hiring a public relations firm can be extremely cost effective relative to the cost of direct employees. Public relations firms can provide peak-load capacity, which can scale up or down as programs ebb and flow. In addition, there are value-added services the firm might subscribe to that greatly enhance any communications programs, but would be both costly and problematic for many staffs.

Bad reasons to hire a PR agency

1. Subterfuge and obfuscation

Many years ago, a PR firm got blasted for creating false entities to support its client, blogging as false entities and, well, just being deceitful in general. Last week, Facebook’s hiring of a PR firm to conduct a “whisper campaign” against Google blew up in its face when the parties involved were identified and the “facts” being spread to the media revealed to be false. Let your conscience be your guide. In today’s day and age, any shady dealings will be found out, it’s just a matter of time.

2. They cost the lowest and accept any client in any industry.

The adage that you get what you pay for certainly holds in this instance. While PR firms that work across a range of verticals aren’t necessarily diluted Jacks of all trades, those that specialize are more likely to understand the market dimensions, the competitive landscape, the media marketplace and other important factors that determine your market success. These things can be learned, but why not exploit the knowledge your agency has gained through its work with other clients in your space?

3. They’ve got all the relationships, meaning coverage with high profile outlets is guaranteed.

In a word, WRONG. We are firm believers that while you need to treat the media with respect and yes, foster good relationships, it’s truly the story’s value that determines whether it will be covered by the most influential media that covers your space. I’m not “friends” with the producers at “Good Morning America” or editors at the New York Times, but when I have a story worthy of that level of media coverage, I’ve never had difficulty in locking down the opportunity notwithstanding that I didn’t have a preexisting relationship with the gatekeepers involved. A PR agency that waves its Rolodex at you as the key to surefire coverage is going to do you a disservice if it can’t also verify that it’s able to present the media with everything they would need to cover you and demonstrate that it will work tirelessly to get your story the coverage it deserves.

Image: Pro Con Lists

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