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PR 101: How to Talk to a PR Professional Here are five tips on having an effective conversation to help you reach your end goal.

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You watched as your friend's startup got 10,000 new leads within two weeks after the company was featured in an article on TechCrunch. You were surprised a CEO quote in a Business Insider piece increased company revenue by 10 percent, or that an article that your consultant friend wrote for Entrepreneur.com that wasn't even about his business sent some of the best engineering talent directly to his inbox.

Does this sound like you? You ask your friends and even your competition how this became possible. Their answer? Public relations.

Related: How to Get the Media Hooked on Your Company

You've heard about public relations, maybe by other names such as publicity or media relations. And . . . you're not quite sure how it works, what it should cost or who is good at it, but you're curious. So, you ask to be put in touch with a "PR person," this mythical creature who has relationships with "the media," and can supposedly get you published. It sounds awesome, and you'd love to be able to say you've been published. However, you think to yourself, "What do I have to talk about? Do I have a story? Do I have news?"

Ultimately, you're utilizing PR as a strategy to get more leads and sales. In order to do so, here are tips on how to have an effective conversation with a PR person or agency, to help you reach that end goal:

1. Understand the overall utility of PR and what it can potentially do for you.

If you don't understand the potential it has and what your options are, it's tough to ask the right questions. Here are some ways to find that out:

  • My company is working toward a particular business goal. How can PR help with this?
  • I've heard the term PR before but I'm not sure what exactly it means. Can you explain to me exactly what you or your firm specifically does for brands?
  • Agencies seem to all offer the same things on their websites -- is there anything in particular that you or your agency specializes in?

2. Know if you're talking to a good PR person.

Just like sales, a good PR person will ask you questions and try to understand how they can help your business before selling you on their capabilities. If you're not sure if this is happening, here are some sample questions:

  • What would you need from me to be successful?
  • Can you give me some recent examples of wins you have gained for your clients and explain to me how you got them?
  • Realistically, what will it take to meet my business objectives? (This is different -- and more important -- than "how long will it take?" because length of time doesn't matter -- content and story components matter.)

Related: 4 Tips on Generating Buzz for Your Business, According to a PR Expert for Startups

3. Figure out if you really need PR right now.

Is it now? Is it later? Was it last week? That's right, there is a bad time for PR -- and there is a time where PR isn't necessary. Your PR person should ask you what your specific business goals are at this moment, to determine whether or not they can help you. If they don't, here are some questions to ask:

  • How can PR help me attain my business objective, such as:
    • More app downloads?
    • Awareness for investors as I gear up to raise another round?
    • Signups to my site?
    • Raise my personal profile?
  • Why is this a good time for me to engage with PR?

Related: Here's How Facebook Has Reduced the Need to Pay PR

4. Understand what success might look like.

One thing to remember is that PR is about giving you exposure and leading people or potential readers, clients, customers, etc., back to your website/company. Your offering must lead the path to conversion, because PR is for lead generation -- not sales generation.

  • I understand that PR placements are not guaranteed - how do I know what success looks like?
  • How does PR differ from sales generation?

5. Know the level of investment you want to make

  • How do you bring benefits to businesses and people?
  • Can you tell me about recent results you've gotten for clients?
  • How many pieces of coverage can I expect to get in the first 90 days, with the content/news that I have?

As you navigate the sometimes rough edges of running your own business, PR will prove to be a long-term learning curve. All the better. Now, when you come across a PR person, you know it is better to ask questions and open yourself to an approach that can serve you in crushing business goals.

Once you think you're ready to use PR for business your next step will be determining the right model. If you're not sure you're ready to hire a PR person or agency or want to take a DIY approach there are sites, courses and books. These will all give you a great foundation to understanding what PR is and how to use it most effectively for your business. Do you have the time to work with an agency? There are dozens out there with a simply Google search. Don't forget there's not only one PR solution for each business. Especially for startups, you can increase your PR investment as your company grows.

To see an exclusive webinar training on how to successfully land press coverage, build the authority and credibility on your own without hiring a five-figure a month PR firm, check out www.prtraction.com/entrepreneur.

Andrea Holland and Sarah Elder

Founders of PR Traction

Andrea Holland and Sarah Elder help solopreneurs, consultants and small business owners utilize PR to get leads and sales, without the five-figure a month PR firm price tag. www.prtraction.com.

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