Let’s face it, public relations is an odd profession. Everyone thinks that they know what PR is, and many companies and individuals purport to do it. If you’re after professional help that gets results, make sure you ask these five questions before making a hiring decision.
1. Who does the actual work? In many firms, especially larger ones, the people who pitch you to get the contract are not actually doing daily work on your account. Smaller firms or solopreneurs might be the way to go if you are interested in someone with ten or more years of experience doing the work.
2. What is their pitch to placement ratio? Public relations is an industry for hustlers, sure, but hustle alone isn’t enough. You want to make sure that whoever you hire gets results. Do they have a decent track record for getting press mentions, or do they tend to spam reporters with mass emails?
3. Can they pivot? Sometimes, the storyline you and your client think will capture the mind and heart of a reporter or editor doesn’t work. A strong PR strategist can think on their feet and knows when it’s time to think of some fresh ideas for how to skyrocket your company into the news media. When interviewing someone to help you, it’s a good idea to ask them about a time when they pivoted successfully.
4. Do they know the right people? An excellent PR person tends to have great relationships, a mind for strategy, and the ability to get shit done. Relationships vary by industry, geography, and work history, and they can (and should) be built and cultivated over time. Depending on the timing of your needs, and the location of the market you’re trying to reach, evaluate the relationships held by prospective agencies or solopreneurs. For example, my relationships are strongest in the areas in which I’ve worked: social responsibility, progressive politics, the Pacific Northwest, and Montana. That doesn’t mean I can’t pitch successfully in other markets (I do and have), but depending on a client’s goals, I may or may not be the best fit. But never doubt that a young woman from Idaho can get a client into the grab bag at the Golden Globes, because I’ve done that too.
5. Do you like them? Life is too short to work with people who don’t share your values and who struggle to get along with others. If your gut tells you it’s not a fit, it’s probably not a fit. At the end of the day, everybody’s skill set is replaceable, but the human factor isn’t.