Want to see your company mentioned in an article? While you can hope that a journalist calls you, your odds improve dramatically if you take active steps to introduce your company to the media. A public relations agency can do the hard work for you.
Advertising can be very effective in projecting the image that you want, but getting mentioned by the press can provide credibility that thousands of dollars in advertising can never hope to achieve. PR firms can help you secure that credibility in the local, industry or national media through all different types of media including print, radio, television or even the Internet.
What should you look for in a PR agency? In the end, PR firms are judged by the press mentions, also known as "placements," that they can get for their clients. As a prospective client, you should, too. Evaluate not only where the client was placed but also what kind of placement they received, e.g. article vs. quote vs. mention. Don't be turned off by placements in publications you might not be familiar with; this may have in fact met the client's objectives.
Some may argue that reviewing portfolios may not reflect the results a public relations firm will actually be able to deliver for you. That is true. But assuming that your company is worthy of coverage, you will have the advantage of having people working for you who already have established contacts with journalists where you may want to be placed.
See how well they can package your company. Read the press releases they have developed for their clients. They should all be clearly written, informative, and interesting. While there will no doubt be standard releases about new product announcements, company results and executive appointments, the firm should also have some creative campaigns that promote their clients in a compelling manner. Press releases that grab your attention are likely to be interesting to the media as well.
One of the most critical aspects to explore is to find out who will actually be responsible for handling your account and pitching your story to the press. The person should be friendly, articulate and persistent both in person as well as via e-mail. No matter how newsworthy your story is, unless there is someone to pitch and follow up, you are unlikely to get picked up by the press.
Finally, look for enthusiasm. I don't care if you sell the most boring product or service in the world. If a PR firm is not honestly excited about your widgets, they sure won't be able to convey it to any member of the press that they want to encourage to write about you.
Working with a PR agency is not cheap. At minimum, you should budget thousands of dollars for a full campaign, with more limited projects being less costly. But the return can be well worth the investment.