When is the right time to appoint a PR agent?  When is a retainer with a PR agency worth the investment?  Interesting questions that I?ve been asked more than once over the course of my career.

Let me be really clear, PR isn?t right for every company at every stage of their business.  If a PR agency says that they can make you a household name, but you are still working out of your bedroom, they might be more interested in taking your money than in building your brand.  Many bedroom entrepreneurs make it ? Wordville itself enjoyed a few months in ?duvet land? before we got our office, built a team and created a proper organisational structure.  But start-ups survive or flourish because they don?t run out of money by spending their hard-earned pennies on things they don?t really need.

PR is not free/cheap advertising.  If you can?t afford advertising don?t think that PR is a less expensive alternative.  PR is a professional service and the skills of the agents, whether in a company or as individual consultants, are sold to you by the hour.  PR agents charge for the effort it takes to devise a plan, create content, find a suitable target and reach out to the press with consideration and persistence.

If you?re a young business and you really feel that being in the media will have an enormous impact on your business?s credibility and success.  Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you have a website with contact details (email address and phone number) that people can find if they want to get in touch with you once they?ve heard about you in the press?  Seems obvious ? but, believe me, lots of individuals put effort into launching a product or project without the wherewithal to record interest or sell.
  1. Do you have a spokespersonwho is available, lucid, well-informed and can speak to a journalist about your company, its products/services and its clients?  If you don?t have a spokesperson how are you going to answer a journalist?s specific questions?  A reporter is going to want to personalise any company news to appeal to their own audience and will very likely want a quote that touches on a particular topic that relates to their area of interest.  If no one has time to help with this ? or no one is happy about ?putting their head above the parapet? ? then avoid PR for the time being.
  1. Do you have a clientwho you can reference, name drop, or call in to support what you say?  Approximately 600,000 businesses are launched in the UK every year.  Many never win the clients they need to go onto their second year.  The press is understandably cautious about featuring any business that might not be around in a matter of months.  They like to see you have credibility and you get that from the people who buy your products/services.

We love working with start-ups and always have.  We are inspired by the energy, sense of purpose and flexibility of small business leaders.  So we?re always intrigued when a start-up approaches us with a request.  But we?ve worked long enough with established brands and newly-founded companies to know that to succeed in PR you?ve got to have the basics or you just can?t get in the press.

If you?re reading this and thinking ?oh no, I was expecting PR to help me sell products? ? then you probably need to go back to your business plan and look again at your route to market.  Eventually PR will help you grow your business ? it?ll will amaze you how much PR can help ? but once your business is ready to be helped.

by Lucy George, Mayor of Wordville

picture souce: Ryan Jorgensen