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How To Hire a Publicist Like a Pro

Every Business Needs PR. Do you want more clients? You need PR. Do you want to be a household name? You need PR. Do you want celebrities to use your product? You need PR. You get the gist.

PR is not advertising. It shows media’s legitimate interest in your product and creates consumer trust. The only reason why it seems less organic is because you need a publicist to present your product to the press, otherwise they may never notice it on their own. They’re busy. Most of what you read in the paper or see on TV was suggested by a publicist, it did not randomly come to a journalist in a brainstorm meeting. Most of them don’t even have time to do research anymore, and most researchers just read through PR e-mails all day long.

3 Golden Rules When Picking PR

Rule #1 Don’t Cheap Out!

In case of PR – what is you pay is what you get.

Hire a better-known company, with better-known clients. Ask who the company represents at this time. It’s not so much of a sign who they used to represent because they no longer have that client on board. The better their clients are the better relationships with the media that company has and the more editors request these brands the more they have a chance of noticing yours.

The less you pay a PR company the less they will work on you. No matter what they tell you, it’s a business, when it comes down to time management – the client that pays most – is the most important to keep and therefore will be the most important to keep happy. The only loophole is how big your brand is – the more the press already wants you, the easier your publicists workload is and therefore they don’t have to spend as much time pitching you to the press. Also the better your brand the more pull you will have for their new clients, so they will be interested in keeping you on board. Basically, if you are more famous you can get away with bargaining with your PR company.

Rule #2 Don’t believe what you see on TV

It will give you unrealistic expectations. Many television shows such as The Hills and The Spin Crowd tend to portray PR world as fun in the sun, where publicists frolic with celebrities, get tons of free goods, go to lunches, gossip in the office and place clients in top publications at the click of a blackberry. In reality a good publicist hardly has time for sleep, is always on the computer and really stressed out. If they’re relaxed…probably so is your campaign.

Whoever will be allocated as your publicist – ask them how many other clients they have. If it’s more than 5 – they won’t have much time to run your campaign properly.

Make sure you like your publicist and have a good instinct about them. You want someone who is going to be your champion and really love your brand because it’s right up their alley…if they’re genuine when pitching – the media will respond to their enthusiasm. You need someone honest, smart and a workhorse. PR is a lot of work.

* Don’t let your PR firm pretend that they have picked you as a client and not the other way around. If the relationships starts with you being afraid to loose them, they will never do any work and act like you should be happy to be there.

Rule #3 Don’t be Afraid to be a Pain in the Ass Client

Check on how they’re pitching, before you sign, or if you already signed – now.

The best pitch is the shortest pitch with a photo.

Make sure you get monthly progress reports of everything that was being done. Then have a monthly meeting to brainstorm and follow up on the progress.

Tell them to focus on top media and not spend as much time on the small. Don’t spend too much time doing events – they’re not as effective as an article in top magazine or a top TV spot.

Call them weekly for a quick update. Let them know if you have any suggestions/needs.

Agency, In-House or Pay-Per-Play?

Agency Pro’s:

-       They have many other clients who the press is interested in and you can piggy-back off

-       You have a whole team of people each with their own contacts, helping out with your PR

Agency Con’s:

-       They don’t have much time to dedicate to just your brand

-       You can’t monitor what’s going on because your campaign is not being run from your office

In-House Pro’s:

-       You have a publicist you can keep an eye on, who is working only on your brand 5 days a week

In-House Con’s:

-       Only one database

-       Some press/stylists may not come to your office because of it’s location or because it’s just one brand. (In fashion PR when stylists go to pick out outfits for a shoot, they visit a few PR firms to get the looks).

Pay-Per-Play Pro’s:

-       You only pay for the press already in print. No risk.

Pay-Per-Play Con’s:

-       These PR’s usually have a ton of clients and will mostly work on those who get press easiest. If your brand is new/difficult, they will not put as much work/thought into it simply because they have no time to waste and want to make money on the ones who are easy to make money from.

The most common PR lies:

Beware if the publicist encourages you to do something, but then decides to talk you out of the idea or vice versa. Most likely they have their own agenda when it comes to a certain project.

You can relax and assume everything your publicist says is bullshit. PR people are paid to spin. But don’t think if they’re working you, that’s not the right person for the job. If they have you hooked that means they do just as good of a job with the media.


About the Author

Sofia Bak has worked as a publicist for 6 years in Los Angeles. Her first PR company Anthony Mora Communications Ltd. dealt with plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills, which are the most notorious people to seek the help of a publicist and also the toughest ones to get publicity for. She then joined aLine Media where she dealt mostly with fashion brands, as well as restaurants, celebrities, events and beauty lines. 

Check out her blog for similar stories


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