TMCnet - World's Largest Communications and Technology Community




Martin Wales

[October 7, 2002]

Customer Catcherâ„¢

By Martin Wales

Profiting With PR Power, Part III:
Hired 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.

Hired Guns
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 undervalue 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 points.
  • Accountability with an outside firm responsible for their results and your success.
  • 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 other countries.

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 services.

In Closing
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 Catcherâ„¢, 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 [email protected] with "PR Power" in the subject line for your special TMC-subscriber, limited-time offer.

Click here for an e-mail reminder every time this column is published.
Like what you've read? Go to past Customer Catcher columns.

Technology Marketing Corporation

2 Trap Falls Road Suite 106, Shelton, CT 06484 USA
Ph: +1-203-852-6800, 800-243-6002

General comments: [email protected].
Comments about this site: [email protected].


© 2021 Technology Marketing Corporation. All rights reserved | Privacy Policy