17 Apr Do you do-it-yourself or hire a PR agent?
On the surface DIY PR saves money. But the money you save on PR agent fees may quickly turn into a costly time-wasting exercise. Find out why.
Do-it-yourself PR on the surface looks like a very attractive option. You avoid the fees associated with hiring a PR agent. You can choose what PR activities you would like to try, and you can enjoy the buzz of knowing that the PR you receive is all your hard work.
However, while DIY PR seems like a great way to save money, keep control of your business’ story and learn the art of self promotion, there is a lot more to PR then most people realise.
Let’s lift the lid on DIY PR and see if it’s the right option for you.
When investigating DIY PR, the first consideration you’ll need to make is whether you can successfully handle PR on your own. This involves understanding what PR is and what’s involved.
If you are only interested in media relations, you already have cosy relationships with key media people and/or you only want a tight sphere of influence, then do-it-yourself may be a good way to start. Think of this in terms of the business of interior design: anyone can rearrange furniture and call themselves an interior stylist, and some of these people can do it quite well. But to get consistent, professional results they need a professional—as do you, if you are serious about securing good PR. Savvy business owners play to their strengths and maximise their time by outsourcing to experts who can make an aspect of the business a focal point. This focus in turn provides stronger results.
Ask yourself some very basic questions:
- Do you have time to learn a new skill?
- Have you got the right relationships in place when it comes to distributing your PR?
- Are your storytelling skills strong in written form?
- Do you have the time it takes to make a sustained effort at keeping your business in the media?
If questions like these lead to ‘no’ answers, you’ll need to hire someone, or an agency, for this function.
The do-it-yourself option
If you answered ‘yes’ to many of those questions, then you may be a candidate for DIY PR and should know the core requirements of strong and effective PR.
DIY PR is all about preparation. Do your research, get your media lists ready and make sure you have newsworthy angles and material to offer media. And take the time to ensure the material you offer is in the way the chosen media outlet prefers to receive it. Remember to pitch enough time in advance to optimise the timing of potential coverage. Keep notes on all your interactions to make it easier to build relationships with key media. Being organised and proactive is important.
Beware the off-the-shelf variety
Some PR agencies offer businesses a DIY PR package, a starter’s kit you can buy off the shelf to get your PR going. Be careful when using these packages as you cannot hold the PR agency accountable for your results. Some of these agencies do not actually have any experience or qualifications in PR!
This package usually gives you access to a media list and a press release template that you can then use to do the rest. Make sure you are being given complete and up-to-date media lists relevant to your area and find out if a press release is actually the best way for your particular business to approach media.
Lots of small businesses have been blacklisted by journalists when doing their own PR, simply because they were using a bad media list or a press release that was not newsworthy or of interest to a journalist. Don’t let your business be another addition to these lists.
The hybrid option
Another option that you can consider is using the services of a PR consultant who can help you get the basics right, equip you with the tools you need and point you in the right direction. This can be a way to save money while maintaining a professional touch, as well as acquiring a few basic PR skills to navigate the dos and don’ts.
For example, savvy business owners can get involved in developing their own by-lined articles (advice articles published in your name with a link to your website) while using the services of a PR consultant to secure media opportunities and liaise with journalists. Once the consultant has found an opportunity, you can then write the article and, provided it is of a high standard and newsworthy, they will get it published. This allows you to keep your involvement in the content production while leaving the relationship management to the PR professional.
This option is ideal for business owners who want to learn as they go while drawing on expertise and an already established PR network.
The PR agency option
A PR agent is an expert in managing communications with the public, your market of potential customers and the media. The job of an agent is to enhance your reputation (or limit damage) through a number of means, one of the most common being through the media.
The PR agent’s job is to understand not only your industry but also the media landscape. This means getting to know publications and programs and forming a rapport with the journalists, editors and producers who work on them. Such a relationship building task is generally too involved and nuanced for the average business owner to undertake due to the amount of time it takes away from your core business activities.
A PR professional will also find the right angle to make something newsworthy. Rather than telling everyone how great your business is—a rookie mistake many businesses make—an agent shows how great your business is by sharing your expertise or case studies, or by communicating your newsworthy activities, whether that’s winning an award, doing important research or performing noteworthy acts.
The final word on DIY PR versus hiring an agent
There is nothing wrong with a business chasing PR opportunities. However, knowing how to approach PR in an ethical, positive and productive way can be a hard nut to crack if your experience levels are low.
Working with an agent gives you the opportunity to experience PR in action without the trial and error often associated with bootstrapping PR. It also gives you an honest understanding of whether you have the time, interest and necessary network it takes to make PR work for you.