7 Questions to Ask Before You Embark on a PR Program
Picture this: You’re in your marketing meeting discussing plans and tactics, when someone starts talking about PR. You discuss it and decide you should explore it as a way to get the word out about your company, product or service.
A very important question to ask yourself is: Are you really ready for PR?
As a PR pro, I want your answer to be yes, because I believe so strongly in the value of PR. Sometimes, however, you may think you’re ready when you’re really not.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself to determine whether you’re truly ready to start a PR push:
1. Are your expectations realistic?
If you’ve never done any PR for your business and start out expecting to be in the Wall Street Journal overnight, you need to reset your expectations. PR takes time. While PR practitioners would love to show immediate results for all their clients (and sometimes, they do), it may take more time. It’s not like advertising, where you pay for the space and know the ad is coming out in the next issue of the magazine. If you’re not ready to be in it for at least three to six months, it may not show benefits or meet your expectations. Give it a chance before you make a call on whether or not it’s working for you.
2. Can you let go?
PR involves putting your best messaging out there and then letting it go into the hands of journalists. I recently worked with a company whose execs had to be educated on the idea that, if we issued a press release, not every story would say verbatim what was in the release. Will the story always be exactly what you expect or want? Probably not, but to reap the rewards, there are some risks. The rewards are more than worth it.
3. Are you ready to engage?
PR pros, no matter how experienced they may be, can’t do PR in a vacuum. Without information from the client, it’s a losing effort. Maybe you don’t have the time to engage in PR. If you don’t, it’s probably not the right time to start. We need to meet with you at least occasionally. We need you to send us relevant information or direct us to the appropriate contacts to gather data. Can you follow through on your end of the bargain?
4. Do you understand PR isn’t magic?
There are things PR can do, and things it can’t. For example, if a media pitch gets the client an interview, is that a guarantee the client will be in the final version of the story? No. Any number of things could happen along the way to change things up. Maybe the reporter was suddenly assigned to a breaking story. Maybe the editor killed the story because there wasn’t room in that issue. Maybe the story took a different direction and the client was no longer fit. Do we like it that when it happens? Of course not, but, the reality is that it can happen. PR opens the door to opportunities, but if you want a guarantee, buy ad space (and by the way, have you checked the prices of that lately)?
5. Can you embrace opportunities when they come?
If we do land you an interview or meeting with a reporter, we expect you to greet it with open arms. Occasionally, clients will decide it’s OK blow off meetings with reporters. Yes, it happens, and if it does, the PR pro is going to wonder (as will the journalist) if the client is truly serious about achieving coverage. Not to mention that it can be a relationship killer for both them and their PR people.
On a related note, if a publication asks for a sample of your product, be ready to send it. I once worked with a client who had a golden opportunity to have a product reviewed, but they were unwilling to send the product without demonstrating it first—and weren’t willing to figure out a way to do that. So, the editor moved on and they lost the opportunity. Don’t hold back—embrace the opportunities. Be open to them.
6. Can you overcome the fear factor?
There’s sometimes a fear involved with the unknown, but in general, the media isn’t “out to get” companies by writing negative product reviews or sharing misinformation. There’s a trust factor there. If you can’t trust the process, then maybe PR isn’t for you.
7. Can you provide constructive feedback?
If we send over an idea for a story pitch or press release or contributed article, we'd like some input from the client to make sure it’s on track. What did you like—or not like—about it? Often, we expect to get feedback, not just a sign-off, so you may have to invest a little time into reviewing what we send you.
PR can do wonders for a company that’s ready. If you’re ready to put the power of PR to work for you, revisit these questions from time to time to make sure you’re helping to support your PR efforts to maximize success.