Bill Gates once said that if he had only one dollar to spend on his business, he would spend it on public relations. Why? Because getting your public relations right is the best way to make sure that everyone knows about your amazing company.
If you think about it, it almost doesn't matter how great you are at your trade, if there isn't any public understanding about your company, people can't find you and hire you.
Not only will a public relations specialist be able to understand what is special about your business, they will be able to tell other people. A great PR specialist will be able to convince total strangers to care about the work that you are doing.
How do I find a freelance PR professional?
Firstly it (almost) goes without saying that you'll want to get connected with someone who has experience in public relations. A public relations expert with have contacts that they've honed over the course of their career, which they will be able to use to help spread the word about your business.
The easiest way to hire a PR specialist is through an agency. An agency will compile a list of eligible people with extensive experience in public relations and a proven track record of getting coverage for their clients.
What are the different options when it comes to PR?
In the PR industry experts usually fall into three categories: agency, in-house or freelance.
Large, established companies often have their own in house PR departments, or work with a public relations agency on a contract basis. Both of these options are great, but they're expensive and a big commitment.
Working with a PR agency usually means agreeing to a minimum length of contract and having a monthly retainer. PR agencies will often expect a minimum commitment of six months.
Having an in house PR department is an even bigger commitment as it means hiring a team.
How do I know if a freelance PR is the right choice for me?
If you are a small business or a start-up and you don't have an unlimited public relations budget to throw around, working with someone who is freelance will often be the easiest way to get started.
Working with a freelance PR means that you have more flexibility. You can find a freelance PR professional who is happy to work the number of hours you are offering. You also don't have to deal with any of the complexities of employing a permanent member of staff.
Many PR practitioners like to work this way. They enjoy mutually beneficial relationships because they enjoy freedom and variety of being freelance, while you are able to gain publicity without having to hire a permanent member of staff.
What does freelance mean?
It's flexible, but it will either mean that your public relations professional works with you full-time for a set length of time, or that they work part-time on an ongoing basis.
What should I look for in a public relations specialist?
The most important part of hiring a PR professional is finding someone who will be able to see what is unique and special about you and your business. They will uncover the human stories behind your brand, because that's where the strongest PR comes from. They will then develop those stories into a strategic communication process.
They will also be confident in their abilities but will be realistic about coverage what they can achieve. They will set reasonable goals with achievable time frames, and deliver within those frameworks.
How do I know when I've found the right PR?
It's a bit like making a new friend or a really good date - you just sort of know.
Chemistry is really important when it comes to finding the right public relations specialist. The person you hire to shout about your business needs to truly understand you and what it is you are trying to achieve, otherwise they won't be able to convince the rest of the world to listen.
How will my PR expert get started?
Initially your public relations specialist will spend some time getting up to speed about you and your company - they might want to run a discovery where they sit down with people all across the business and ask about their stories, or they might just want to observe how the company works.
Either way, a sensible PR expert will listen and observe before they start work.
What will my PR actually do?
Once they're ready to go your public relations specialist will spend their time writing press releases and pitching stories about your business to the press.
This will include newspapers, online publications, magazines, podcasts, social media influencers - basically anyone with a platform.
They can also help with crisis management, press days and other events, internal communications and developing your social network.
What kind of stories will they pitch?
The stories they pitch will depend on what your company does, but they will probably be a combination of news lead pitches about your company's development, human interest stories about the origin of the story, and if possible, original research.
How will they get my company into the press?
Your PR specialist will develop and maintain relationships with members of the press, so you are regularly part of any relevant public discourse.
A great PR will build you up as an expert in your field so that you are regularly asked to give a public opinion on a sector specific topic, therefore enhancing your reputation and the reputation of your business.
The aim is to ensure a steady stream of good press about your business.
What should I look for when hiring a public relations specialist?
Your PR expert is the person who is going to shape the public perception of your company, so you must make sure they truly understand who you are and what you do.
The most important thing about hiring a public relations specialist is to be very clear about your expectations and what they are able to deliver. Of course we would all like a hundred pieces of coverage per week, but that's not totally realistic.
Look for someone who is realistic about what they can deliver - who doesn't over promise, and has a solid, demonstrable track record.
What questions should I ask a potential PR?
You should ask any potential public relations professional what coverage they have been able to secure for other clients, how much coverage they would anticipate being able to secure for you, and why they feel passionate about your specific message.
It may also be sensible to ask your PR to provide an example of a time when they have handled negative public relations and protected a company's public image. Knowing that your PR can take control if you get bad press is essential.
What are the different types of PR?
While the basics of PR are fundamentally the same, PR is very different depending on what background a person comes from.
Some PRs work predominately on political campaigns, others are brought in to spread privately commissioned projects, like works of market research.
Financial PR tends to be more about data driven press releases provided to relevant press, whereas consumer PR is often more event led. A PR who has worked with law firms, for instance, will have a different skill set from someone who has worked for a make-up brand, university or in public policy.
Using an agency to find the right PR will help you to work out exactly who is right for you.
Does my PR deal with paid media?
Generally PR is publicity which you don't pay for - at least directly. You might send samples of your product, or donate your time to be interviews as an expert, but a PR generally won't be involved in arranging paid media.
Some PR professionals do have experience in paid media however, so if that is something which you're interested in, it's worth asking.
What does my PR need to know about my company?
In order to have the most satisfying PR experience possible, try to give your PR professional a really strong steer on what it is you want.
If you've got a favourite newspaper or magazine that you dream of appearing in, they can devote more of their time to landing that coverage.
Or if you're simply trying to make your brand as famous as possible, your PR practitioner can focus on pitching out to as many publications as possible.
How can I be prepared for negative public relations?
It's also essential that you're as honest with your PR as possible from the outset, not make sure that they're prepared to handle media relations and if needed, any negative PR. Sadly negative PR is a risk with any business, but if you're prepared, a good PR can handle anything.
You can have your PR sign an NDA if you're worried about sharing secrets, but it's essential that their PR strategies are formed in the full knowledge of any potential issues.
How much coverage will my public relations specialist get me?
How long is a piece of string? It's very difficult to say how much coverage a public relations specialist will get you, especially if they are working on a freelance basis.
It might be that they're able to get two pieces of coverage a week, or it might be that they only get once piece of high-quality coverage.
Initially you may want to set a goal for how many press releases your public relations professional sends out, rather than how much coverage they secure, as it's an easier metric to control.
Can a PR specialist handle my social media?
A publicity relations professional will often also handle your company's social media. This can be really useful if you know that your social media platforms need some work, but you're not able to hire a full time social media specialist.
Your PR will usually be able to help you form a social media strategy and then either create social media content, or teach other employees of your company how to create it.
What if we already have social media management?
If if your PR isn't in charge of your social media platforms, their public relations strategy will usually intersect with the social media plan, so they will work closely with whoever is in charge of your social media.
Will my PR help with events?
If you run a business which lends itself to press events then you'll want a PR who can work that into their PR strategies.
Parties, launches, press days or networking events can be great ways to get attention for your business. As such, many PRs are experience in event management and can throw an incredible party (or event) for you.
How long will I work with my PR?
That's really up to you. Some companies hire freelance public relations professionals and end up working together for years. Others like to bring in a PR to work on one specific campaign or topic and then bring the relationship to a close once that project is concluded.
However long you work together working with a freelance PR with clear boundaries and a well defined strategy builds mutually beneficial relationships.
Can I return to the same PR again and again?
Absolutely! If you've found a mutually beneficial relationship, you should expect to be able to reunite with your freelancer for projects as and when you need to.
How can Passionfruit help me hire a PR?
If you feel that using a freelance PR professional is the best option for your business, get in touch with the good people at Passionfruit. They'll spend some time getting to understand what it is you need from your PR, and then help you to pick the right person from their extensive network of PR specialists.