Not All PR People Are Created Equally

This is a true statement.  There are a lot of people out there who say they do public relations but the truth is many don’t know how to conduct a proactive PR campaign.  They don’t know what PR is.   They have, somehow, generated their own definition.  Some of these people will sell you on PR as:

  • “I Twitter for your business” – that’s not PR
  • “I will post your press release on various websites and see what sticks” – you’re paying someone to do something you can do?
  • “I will write your blog” – how does this generate media attention?
  • Say things like “I can promise you a story here” – boy if it was that easy….you can control another person (a journalist) like you can control the weather
  • “I have a large Rolodex and will get people into your business” – that’s great but it’s not generating positive press to drive more business

There are even people out there who bill themselves, I mean actually claim, to be PR experts and they’ve never spent one minute in the industry!

Unfortunately, there are many more that will try and pull the wool over the eyes of small business owners who just aren’t as educated on PR as they should be.  It seems, in particular, that I’ve been seeing a lot more of these kinds of people actively selling their “talents” on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn.  It makes me shutter.  Why? Because so many of these people end up coming to me, wounded and not trusting of the PR process after throwing a lot of money at someone who didn’t really do anything for their business.

For me it comes down to trust.  Believe it or not, but I qualify my potential clients as much as they qualify me as a trustworthy business and a professional who will do what they say, on time and on budget.  You should trust your PR professional as much as you trust a client, business partner  or vendor.  And if you don’t….then walk away before they do so with your money and no results.

So, what should a credible and reliable PR person look like?  Here’s your checklist:

  1. They should be knowedgeable about small business and small budgets
  2. They should have a strong and lengthy background in PR and marketing with proven results for other clients
  3. They should offer a credible list of references, which should include past clients and, if possible, media
  4. They should provide examples of results they’ve accomplished for past clients – a portfolio of stories
  5. They should have a nose for news and be able to translate your story into something newsworthy
  6. They should be able to pick up the phone and pitch your story to a journalist
  7. You should have some sort of initial result within 30 days
  8. Ideally, they should have experience working as a journalist or attended journalism school
  9. They should definitely understand how to incorporate social media into your campaign and get results
  10. They should view working for you as being part of your team for success – it shows commitment to providing a solid service for your business
  11. You should trust them right off the bat

Let’s be honest, anyone can sell or peddle anything if they truly believe they can do it, or think they can get you to believe they can do it.  I tell my clients upfront what the campaign will be and then put it into a proposal along with as much of the budget costs as I can possibly come up with.  Nothing is hidden.  There is no smoke and mirrors.  Finally I tell them that they need to trust their instincts.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  PR is a long-term process and it requires patience and diligence.

To learn more about PR before heading into the process of selecting someone to work with you, I suggest you read the other posts available on Small Business Daily on PR.  It will be very worth your time and may even save you money in the end.

Have something to add to the list above?  Post a comment for everyone to read.

Jennifer Fortney
Cascade Communications

3 Responses to “Not All PR People Are Created Equally”
  1. Great information, Jennifer. After 26+ years in the business arena I have learned one valuable lesson (along with many others!): “Do what you do best and hire someone else to do the rest.” Just reading this list made me realize where I’m strong and where I’m inept. Sure glad there are innovative, intelligent and competent individuals such as yourself who know how to get us seen in amazing light. Congrats! Bonnie

  2. Great information, as I am in the process of hiring a PR Rep.
    Thank you for your valuable insight.

  3. smallbizexperts says:

    Dr. Anderson,
    I’m glad you found this post so helpful. It’s important to really be educated on PR before entering to a contract for a campaign. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. I’m happy to help you through the process of selecting someone who is both experienced and right for your business. I wish you all the best, and keep me-up-to-date on the results. I’ll look forward to hearing about your success.

    Jennifer Fortney
    President, Cascade Communications

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