When you decide to hire a public relations agency, your mind is probably full of the questions that you want to ask your prospective candidates. As a publicist, I field a lot of questions from prospective clients, some more focused and direct than others.
While most prospective clients ask thoughtful, intelligent questions, occasionally we receive some rogue questions that are difficult to answer, not because we can’t answer them, but because they simply aren’t as relevant.
To streamline the interview process when you want to hire PR help, here are three alternative ways to ask the tough questions and get the answers you need.
Instead of: “How many media contacts do you have?”
Ask: “What are some past successes that you have had with media?”
Before you hire a publicist or a PR team, you want to know how many contacts that person has in your industry. The more, the merrier, right? Wrong. What is more important is that your publicist can give you concrete examples or case studies of proven successes across a variety of industries.
I have plenty of friends and close contacts who work in different types of media – some who I meet regularly for drinks and others who have been to my house for holiday parties. None of these people have ever placed my story to do me a favor. While it is important that your publicist be well read and knowledgeable about who the right contacts are at specific publications, it is more important that they can demonstrate an ability to think quickly and creatively when dealing with media friends – new or old.
Instead of: “How much do you charge?”
Ask: “What can you do for $X,000?”
Here is the thing. We are about to wrap up an hour-long introductory conversation, wherein we discussed my background, your business and have now decided that we would like to continue discussions about working together. While it seems natural that as a prospective client you would want to know how much we charge, there is no one-size-fits all cost for a public relations or social media marketing proposal.
There are many factors at play here and while some publicists have an established hourly rate, before we figure out what we’re going to charge we need to figure out what type of program would work best for your business and how much you’d like to spend, so that we can tailor a program to fit your needs. Of course, if you are hoping to spend only $500 on a national product campaign, we might be at an impasse. In most cases, though, we can work with your bottom line.
Instead of: “Where will you place my product/service?”
Ask: “What are some of the placements you are most proud of?”
Here’s the thing. In public relations, there are no guarantees. We will do everything possible to create a compelling story that will interest our media contacts, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
A publicist should never guarantee a placement or media coverage (unless you are paying for product placement, which is a different story) because there are too many factors that can influence the media, even if we do everything right. Believe me, we want The Today Show as much as you do, but we can’t give you a guarantee that it will happen. Instead, we can tell you about the great coverage we have garnered past clients and explain our pitching process to you so that you understand what goes on “behind the scenes” as we work towards getting you the amazing coverage we all want.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.