PR is an undeniably useful tool for both startups and large companies -- but it can be a hard marketing channel to measure. So before pouring your budget into a PR professional or agency, make sure you ask the right questions to ensure you’ll get enough bang for your buck.
To learn what to ask, we asked 11 successful entrepreneurs the following question:
What is one question startups and business owners should ask PR professionals before hiring them?
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. What About Our Business Resonates With You?
The answer to this question will help you determine if they are interested in working with you because it's a piece of business, or because they believe in you and what you're doing. You want allies and partners when it comes to your exposure. Don't settle for someone or a team who is not moved by what you're doing.
2. Do You Retain Long-Term Clients?
A good PR firm can maintain customer relationships for longer than 90 -120 days. If a PR firm is providing a return on investment they will be able to retain clients year round. Most PR firms don't and can't retain long-term clients as many are one-hit wonders or simply don't perform at all. Ask to speak to a PR firm's clients before signing on for a monthly retainer.
3. How Will You Measure My ROI?
PR has always been one of the hardest marketing channels to measure. But things have changed. Today, a savvy PR professional should be able to align their productivity with your business goals. A press mention means nothing if it doesn't lead to bigger and better things: More sales, better press opportunities, increased interest from investors. If they can't answer that with confidence, run.
4. What Do You Know About My Business?
Any potential PR firm needs to have a good understanding of your business. They should know not just your mission and offerings, but your competitors, your issues and your messaging challenges. Getting significant and meaningful press is a networking exercise. Your potential PR team should be familiar not only with your business, but with your industry -- and have press connections within it.
5. What Metrics Do You Track?
If you have a marketing budget your options are either paying for sponsored content (trackable and guaranteed) or paying for a PR professional (not trackable, not guaranteed). If you go the route of PR sure you understand and are on board with their limitations. Understand how they are tracking their efforts and what you will see in return through a dashboard or follow up report.
6. How Would You Pitch Me?
Ask the PR person you are hiring to create a pitch for you of your company. Seeing how they plan on pitching your brand will help you to discover their writing style, pitching techniques and comprehension of your overall company and brand. Evaluating their pitching practices to see if they match with your expectations is a must.
7. What Technology Will You Use to Promote My Brand?
Ask what new technology they will be using to promote your brand. The marketing landscape is very dynamic. While good, old-fashioned networking will always be crucial, there are many other options available to marketers now that have never existed before, and these create huge opportunities. I would only work with a PR professional who is utilizing every tool in the kit to reach new audiences.
8. What Experience Do You Have in My Industry?
I would ask for a list of their experience working in my company's specific field and list of relevant references who are still active clients.
9. Which Large Publications Do You Work With?
What is the biggest publication they hope to get you into? If it's too small, they are not ambitious. If it's big, you'll know how to judge their success later.
10. How Do You Handle Bad PR?
If a PR firm can handle bad publicity, I'll have much more confidence in their ability to drum up good publicity.
11. Can You Show Me Facts, Figures and Percentages?
Public relations professionals are talkers -- that’s their job. Ask for facts, figures, percentages and measurable results that they produced for another company. If they can’t give you anything solid, don’t expect anything different for your campaign.