As an owner of a PR firm, I want new clients to come on board with us.  The lifeblood of any small business depends on client retention, client acquisition and growth.  As the old adage goes: “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”  But “growth” for PR firms isn’t in the acquisition. Growth is when firms can hoist a glass and take a drink after a job well done. 

Since I purchased Dick Jones Communications, I’ve had the opportunity to consult with many institutions that are looking for a public-relations partner.  The take away is some just aren’t ready.

Here are my three guiding principles to decide whether or not a new client might be ready for a PR firm. 

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Do you have time to dedicate to the relationship? PR firms are needy.  Good firms want relationship investments.  We want time with your CEO and senior executives and to be looked at as trusted partners. 

When we start a relationship, it takes time to get to know a client and her business.  The best relationships allow for access to executives and time for strategizing to meet a client’s needs. Collaboration is important, so much that if you’re planning on hiring a firm and forgetting about them – you’re not ready to work with a PR firm.  

Before we onboard clients with our firm, I want to them to understand that they are investing in a partnership with a firm -- so treat me like a spouse, not a one-time fling.

Are there clear, actionable goals? When you engage with a PR firm, we want to know that you have clear, actionable goals.  We want to know that you’ve thought about what success looks like and what ideas you can contribute to achieving this success. The latter isn’t always necessary, but I’ve found that companies sometimes have really strong ideas about marketing their brands. Those great ideas can, however, get swept up in a PR firm tide.

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I realize, it’s up to the PR firm to let a client know when their goals are too outlandish. 

The best PR firms are comfortable being honest and upfront with clients.  They are in the success business, and if client goals eclipse a firm’s capabilities, good PR firms either partner with those who have specific capabilities or they turn down the job. 

Are you open to new ideas? Great partnerships provide value to both parties and sometimes that value leads you down a different road than previously thought.  It’s the responsibility of the PR firm to present new, provocative ideas.  Whether firms are engaged with social media, digital marketing or national public-relations endeavors, firms owe it to clients to think creatively and strategically.  Clients who aren’t open to this creative process are missing out on a resource that could potentially be a game changer for their business. 

There are many wrong reasons to engage with a firm.  Systematically thinking about goals, day-to-day activities and being open to new ideas will signal to a firm you’re ready for their help.

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