Should I Hire a PR Agency?
by Alfred Lautenslager

The most important step is realizing that PR should be done in the first place. PR is very important, but a frequently overlooked approach to small business marketing. Many times for entrepreneurs and small-medium sized businesses, there is no budget available for hiring an agency or outsourcing the PR. There are a number of approaches available to achieve free or very cost effective PR. the time it takes to plan and execute this PR vs. the time you could be spending on what you do best in your business has to be evaluated. The other thing that needs evaluated is how effective the do it yourselfer can be vs. the professional with all the contacts, efficiencies, methods and tools to spread the word effectively. Timelines and deadlines also have to be evaluated. Will you be able to contact the necessary editors, distribute your press materials, get your articles placed between now and the time of your event or will you need someone else to spend their time doing it, especially with tight deadlines right around the corner?

Lets look at the various PR components that will work, whether done by an agency or done by you the entrepreneur:

  • Press release
  • Press release distribution (KEY)
  • Media interview
  • Editorial contribution
  • Guest columns
  • Letters to the editor
  • Feature articles
  • Article placement
  • Seminars
  • Workshops
  • Speaking engagements
  • Press conference
  • Market research
  • Media relations
  • Contact lists
  • If you feel there is a risk that your campaign will be improperly composed or poorly pitched or materials will be poorly written, over-commercialized (editors do not like promotion, they like news), and misdirected with no follow-up then you would be better off hiring a PR professional or agency.
  • If YOU don't have the media contacts, hire a professional. Most PR agencies and professionals have established contacts in the media that have been groomed and cultivated over several years lead to more media placements in higher profile places.
  • Writing is also key. Can you provide the catchy headline that every editor is looking for? Can you provide the newsworthiness angle to your event, announcement or information? Yes to these may suggest a do-it-yourself campaign, provided things like time and efficiencies are available.
  • DO WHAT YOU DO BEST: PR specialists/agencies generate publicity full time, and know the ins and outs, shortcuts and secrets to getting the job done better and quicker. You could do your own auto mechanics, string your own telephone wire or rebuild your own computers provided you had the right tools, the right amount of time and of course the expertise to be efficient and cost effective. If you could spend your time doing what you do best and get one more sale for your business, what is that worth to you vs. hiring a professional?

If you have the time, tools, talent and know-how to launch, maintain and follow up on your own campaign, then you should definitely do so. If not, there are plenty of public relations/publicity firms, specialists and services available. Only hire what you can afford. Remember to view this expenditure as an investment and weigh that investment against what one more piece of business could be worth to you. Once business owners, entrepreneurs, and managers understand their own efficiencies and PR options, they will then have the answer to the question of in-house generated/managed publicity or outsourced PR. Regardless of the choice, when it comes to launching a PR campaign; many businesses find that they can't afford NOT to have one.

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