It’s a noisy environment out there. With EVERY brand competing for a customer’s attention, it isn’t easy to stand out.
Often I talk with prospective clients who think public relations will be the answer to all their visibility challenges. Alas, it’s not a magic potion.
A very important question to ask yourself is: Are you really ready for PR?
Of course, as a PR pro, I want your answer to be yes, because I believe so strongly in the value of public relations as part of a thought leadership effort and digital marketing program. But sometimes, you may think you’re ready….when, in fact, you may not be.
PR can help a company capture a prospective customer’s eye – and it’s more credible than ads. 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. And digital PR is something every client is interested in.
As the PR market grows (10.2% growth was projected in 2021), it’s reasonable to expect that more companies than ever will consider embarking on a public relations program.
But – it does take some effort to get where you want to be.
10 Questions to Consider to Determine If You’re Ready for PR
Think you’re ready to try a PR push?
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re truly prepared to start a public relations effort:
1) Are your expectations realistic?
If you’ve never done any PR for your business – yet you start out expecting to be in the Wall Street Journal overnight – it may be time to reset your expectations. PR takes time.
While PR pros would love to show immediate results for all their clients (and sometimes, it happens), it may take more time. It’s not like advertising, where you pay for the space and know exactly when the ad is coming out and what it will say.
If you’re not ready to be in it for at least three to six months, it may not show benefits or meet your expectations. Give it a chance before you make a call on whether or not it’s working for you.
2) Are you ready to engage?
PR pros, no matter how experienced they may be, can’t make a public relations effort successful if they work in a vacuum. Without information from the client, it’s a losing effort.
Maybe you don’t have the time to engage in a partnership with a PR consultant or agency. If you don’t, it’s probably not the right time to start.
We need to meet with you at least occasionally. We need you to send us relevant information or direct us to the appropriate contacts to gather data. Can you follow through on your end of the bargain?
3) Can you let go?
PR involves putting your best stories out there and then letting those go….into the media’s capable hands.
For example, I’ve worked with clients who needed to be educated on the idea that, if we issue a press release, not every story would say verbatim what was in the release.
Will the story always be exactly what you expect or want? Probably not, but to reap the rewards, there are some risks. The rewards are more than worth it.
4) Do you understand PR isn’t magic?
There are things PR can do—and things it can’t. For example, if a media pitch gets the client an interview, is that a guarantee the client will be in the final version of the story? No. Any number of things could happen along the way to change things up.
Maybe the reporter was suddenly assigned to a breaking story. Maybe the editor killed the story because there wasn’t room in that issue. Maybe the story took a different direction and the client was no longer fit. Do we like it that when it happens? No. But, the reality is that it CAN happen.
PR opens the door to opportunities, but if you want a guarantee, you need to buy ad space.
5) Can you embrace opportunities when they come?
If we do land you an interview or meeting with a reporter, we expect you to greet it with open arms.
That means you may need to make time to talk with the journalist or answer questions they may have about an announcement you’ve shared with them, even if it may not be convenient that day. If a reporter is on deadline, they’ll need your attention right away.
The point is, whatever a reporter asks – within reason – you should be ready to provide – and quickly.
6) Can you overcome the “fear factor”?
There’s sometimes a fear involved with the unknown, but in general, the media isn’t “out to get” companies by writing negative product reviews or sharing misinformation.
It’s in the best interest of the journalist to be truthful in whatever they publish. A good reporter cares about getting it right.
There’s a trust factor there—if you can’t trust the process, then maybe PR isn’t for you.
7) Can you provide constructive feedback?
If we send over an idea for a story pitch or press release or contributed article, we need some input from the client to make sure it’s on track.
What did you like—or not like—about it? Did you hit the key messages you’re trying to convey?
Often, we expect to get feedback, not just sign off, so you may have to invest a little time into reviewing what we send you.
8) Is your site up-to-date?
One thing a journalist is bound to do once your PR representative has engaged with them is take a look at your website. Is it updated? If not, you may want to focus on that first.
As an example, I sometimes work with clients in the manufacturing industry. Many times, companies in this industry lag behind on updating their sites (and other marketing materials), so I’ll usually recommend they invest in this before we draw any media attention to them.
9) Are you active on social media?
Social media is another way a reporter may check to get a sense of a company they may be interested in talking with for a story.
If you haven’t posted to your LinkedIn account in months – or you’re not even on Twitter yet – you may want to work on that first. (Yes, this applies to B2B clients, as well.) It adds to a brand’s credibility.
Read more about why this is important here in my piece for Entrepreneur.
10) Are you aligned internally?
Sometimes when I start an engagement with a new client, be it a small business or a larger enterprise, I quickly find out that not all the principals are on the same page when it comes to goals or messaging. The CEO may be thinking the brand needs to head in one direction while the marketing director feels it should be focused on another.
Ideally, this should be discussed before engaging a PR pro. If you’re not all on the same page, you may end up wasting time and energy trying to uncover opportunities that one party feels aren’t helping further the company’s goals. Better to hash that out prior to bringing in a public relations consultant. Or, ask the PR consultant if they can help you work through that as an initial project.
If You’re Ready for Public Relations – It Can Work For You
PR can do wonders for a company that’s ready. If you’re ready to put the power of public relations to work for you, revisit these questions from time to time to make sure you’re helping to support your PR efforts to maximize success.
About the author: You’ll find Michelle Garrett at the intersection of PR, content marketing and social media. As a public relations and communications consultant, content creator, blogger, speaker and freelance writer, Michelle’s articles and advice have been featured in Entrepreneur, Muck Rack, Ragan’s PR Daily, Meltwater, ThomasNet, Attorney at Work, FairyGodBoss, Freelancers Union and more. She is the co-host of #PRLunchHour on Twitter Spaces and is the founder and host of #FreelanceChat. In addition, Michelle was named among the top 10 most influential PR professionals by Commetric in April 2021 and a Top Digital PR Leader in 2020.