You and the Law | Hire a PR firm? Don’t make these mistakes! – Times Standard
“My husband ‘Dean’ is considering starting his own market research company, which is structured similar to part-time jobs he had during his college days: calling people and asking questions about products or services. He would hire college students studying either language or drama, alongside retirees who need to supplement their incomes.
“He will teach them not just to recite from memory or to sound singing and irritating – but to show that they care about the subject and engage with the respondents.
“He ran the idea through people he happened to call up, and coincidentally, one happened to own a small PR agency, thought the idea was a sure moneymaker, met with us, and hit up an expensive – thousands of dollars a month – promotion campaign and secured us articles in major business publications and television interviews about Dean’s idea.
“It sounded convincing but it was high pressure and we were put off by the guy’s refusal to put us in touch with his clients. Since you have so many sources of sound advice, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Do we really need a PR firm? What are the red flags? Thank you Holly
PR: The attitude of a publicist is often not well understood
I answered the couple’s question from Nicole Wool, who is a friend of this column and not only a publicist but also a lawyer. your advice? “Run from this guy!”
“People often don’t understand what advertising is, why they believe their business needs it, and are led to believe that its purpose is to generate sales. While that may be a by-product, that’s not what PR does. That’s marketing. If you’re hiring a publicist because you’re trying to increase sales, you’re in the wrong arena.
“Advertising is a way of calculating how much it costs to acquire a customer or make a sale. But PR is not really quantifiable. So if your goal is to increase sales, then devote resources to advertising. It’s one of the reasons why there’s often a discrepancy between what PR clients want and why they feel they’re not getting the results they want.”
What is PR? Customers make wrong assumptions
So what is the function of PR? Wool explains that a PR firm or publicist:
“Manages how information about an individual or business is shared with the public, improves a brand’s credibility and overall awareness, and responds to negative events in a way that hopefully minimizes their impact. Success depends on building and maintaining good relationships with journalists, issuing well-written press releases, posting on social media, and utilizing other venues that keep the public or a specific audience informed of client activities.”
But Dave only has one idea. Does he need a publicist?
Wool’s answer? No!
“It’s easy to get scammed here as there are a lot of people who would take the couple’s money and not get any results. A publicist works with something that exists — a product, a book, a film in production — something tangible that hopefully has a unique quality that makes it stand out.”
In addition, she outlined assumptions and behaviors that lead to disappointment:
(1) Think of a publicist as a magician and miracle worker.
We can’t pull rabbits out of a hat at the last minute and suddenly get a cover story on a major media outlet or a national television show. If the media has never heard of you or your brand, they need time to decide whether to cover you. It doesn’t happen overnight.
(2) Expect to pay by the piece. Tell the publicist, “We’ll pay you by hits.”
That will not do! You ask a publicist to work for free. Serious PR people usually need a 4-6 month contract, are paid on a monthly basis and results are never guaranteed.
The fly-by-night PR scammers will be ok with anything you suggest! They will charge a lot less than an established company since they are not well known. You get what you pay for.
(3) Don’t micromanage!
Engaging in micromanagement behavior, especially in crisis situations, is frustrating and makes the publicist feel mistreated. Unless there is an emergency, do not treat the publicist as if the house is on fire.
(4) Thinking that bigger is better. Not realizing that competent PR doesn’t come cheap.
To think that only a big agency can get you the press exposure you need is a flawed argument. While large firms can often do a good job, each client usually means more to a small publicist than it does to a larger PR firm, which can have many clients at once.
Properly done PR is a significant expense, running into thousands of dollars a month. Run away from anyone who asks $1,000 a month!
Wool lists 6 red flags that mean, “Avoid these people.”
1 – They promise fantastic media coverage from the start.
2 – You are willing to work for little money.
3 – They refuse to provide references or evidence of past campaigns.
4- They refuse to allow you to speak to a former client when you ask.
5 – If you say, “I will tell you that I will not give you access to my other notable clients unless that newspaper or press office is reporting on you.”
Closing our interview, Wool warned, “Legitimate publicists will never substitute one client for another. It is unethical and just bad business.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which can be faxed to 661-323-7993 or emailed to [email protected]. Also visit dennisbeaver.com.