Profiting With PR Power, Part III:
Guns, Or DIY?
Public relations (PR) is an affordable and efficient tool for
successfully increasing public awareness of your company and its
offerings. Success in selling your technology is more likely with third
party endorsements to build your credibility and positively influence the
public's perception of your products or services.
This third part in our series on PR investigates the advantages and
disadvantages of hiring a PR firm. Previously, we've discussed the
benefits you obtain from effective PR and the
importance of having a strategic PR plan.
You want PR to magnify and multiply your marketing efforts and in
the end, your sales. But who is going to execute all your PR activities?
You, or Bob, or Sue? What are the pros and cons of having someone outside
your business running with the PR ball?
Chris Perkett, president and founder of PerkettPR, gave us some
insight. She defines PR's role as, "Influencing key audiences that
your company needs to reach in a positive way, while developing and
maintaining your brand identity." I asked Perkett to list the
advantages and disadvantages of hiring outside PR versus a do-it-yourself
(DIY) approach. In addition, she compared the larger firms to smaller,
"boutique" PR companies.
According to Perkett, there are certainly several advantages when
hiring a PR firm to assist you. They include:
- Acquiring expertise without hiring additional employees
with specialized skills.
- Gaining multiple years of experience from an entire PR team, each
perhaps with a niche specialty.
- Utilizing a team approach for brainstorming to develop effective
strategies with the accumulation of many creative minds.
- Getting an independent view of your company's strengths that you may
or have not even identified.
- Exposing weaknesses that you might not have noticed or wanted to talk about,
but that need addressing.
- Receiving media training and coaching on the complexity of PR,
promotions, and publicity.
- Hearing independent opinions that are a less political and more private resource
for your staff -- especially for working through your strong and weak
- Accountability with an outside firm responsible for their results and
- Acquiring an inherent status just from employing an external PR firm.
It can open doors to reporters you may not be able to impress, or even
access, otherwise -- having someone call on your behalf is very effective. A PR firm
can make you look bigger than you are, too.
- Taking advantage of the PR firm's own intricate network of connections from previous
employers and media work. It is easier for them to call up associates that
you don't know and who have influence. Agencies meet and connect with
people, like reporters, all the time.
Home (PR) Depot?
In comparison, you can employ your own PR person or department. If you
hire well, then they should provide the advantages mentioned above and you
have them at your disposal -- daily and immediately. This is a matter of
affordability and your bandwidth to manage it internally.
The alternative measure might be to take it on yourself, with little or
no PR experience. Maybe you have no budget for outside PR assistance. In
this case, the concerns include having no experience, limited PR contacts,
proper planning, and making mistakes as you learn. More problematic
issues include taking your time and focus away from your core business
role or activity.
There are advantages for the do-it-yourselfer. Obviously, cost is the
main one, as you're already on the payroll and nothing further is taken
from your cash flow. You know your company and your industry intimately.
Perkett suggests, "Occasionally, you might better catch a reporter's
attention as an internal PR person. Some media like a connection right
into a company."
Does Size Matter?
If you do hire an outside PR firm, you face another choice. There are
larger, traditional PR firms and then there are smaller, boutique firms and individual contractors.
Larger organizations become your personal PR army. If you're a global
company, there is advantage with the larger PR organizations having
offices internationally and international knowledge and experience. They
provide a physical beachhead into foreign markets with prior experience in
Based on their size, there is an infrastructure and a pre-defined
process to apply to your needs. A larger PR firm has many levels of people
with different billing rates. The good news is this gives you options when
selecting the exact package of services you desire and offers some
flexibility in your budgeting. You have many PR people doing similar jobs
but with various levels of experience. The bad news is without a big
budget you get the 'juniors.' And, even with a larger budget and access to
more 'seniors,' some clients still feel a lack of focus and attention from
large PR firms, especially if they have many clients.
In contrast, there are small PR firms. PerkettPR is a self-described
"boutique" firm, so it was quite natural for Perkett to come up
with the benefits of an agency this size: "We offer a unique business model. It allows us to
provide results-based PR at a more affordable rate and a more flexible
level. Having said that, I have seen some change now where big firms are
going after smaller accounts and bringing their retainers down."
"Smaller firms have the ability to remain closer to their PR
contacts. At larger firms there seems to be an evolution where more senior
people tend to end up managing processes, staff, and other administrative
tasks rather than leveraging their relationships," Perkett stated.
Smaller firms have fewer levels of staff, if any, and fewer clients making
them highly responsive and rapid implementers.
"The biggest advantage of a boutique PR firm is
cost-effectiveness. The majority have lower overhead costs to be supported
by client fees," offers Perkett. "At boutique firms, senior
people work in day-to-day tactics while also being part of the strategic
development. In contrast, at large firms, the senior people do the
strategy initially and only get involved again later -- usually when the
client becomes upset about something."
Small PR outfits may have offices, but many are virtual. Perkett is
virtual but uses fulltime staff. Others are totally virtually and hire
freelancers or contractors for each project. Having a database of
freelancers allows them to offer specific expertise or industry focus. If
you hire a freelancer yourself, be aware that some clients are nervous
about freelancers' commitment level and the tracking of billable time for
Whether you look to a PR firm outside your walls, big or small, or do
it yourself, you must leverage this marketing channel. No matter who
does it, you can profit from PR power -- but only when you actually do it.
Join me next month to learn what to look for in a public relations firm, and
the questions to ask when searching for the right one for you. Until then,
I'll be on the lookout for your PR campaign.
Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher™, advises technology companies
on marketing for maximum results with minimum risk using their existing
resources. Get your own audiotape series on Profit from PR Power: How
to Successfully and Affordably Market Your Technology. Hear PR pros
reveal their step-by-step systems for building brand awareness, using
affordable strategies and tactics -- then experience their success. E-mail
us today at firstname.lastname@example.org
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