Hiring the right PR agency to lead your communications initiative – both internal and external – can lead to many positive results for a business. From increased brand awareness and more website traffic to motivated employees and industry accolades, PR promotes the best of what a company represents, and even inspires others to rally to the brand.
Hiring a PR agency at the wrong time, however, can result in in a catastrophic failure amounting to lost money, productivity and disillusionment in PR’s ability to grow a business and its brand awareness.
The bottom-line is it pays to know when the optimal time is to hire a PR agency. With that in mind, I have listed some scenarios below that could justify talking with, if not actually hiring, a PR agency.
Startup funding: we work extensively with startups in technology, and even in consumer and healthcare, and very often a funding event occurs early on to help them scale rapidly. One of the best ways to reach a mass audience and motivate early adopters is through aggressive and ongoing PR.
Time to pitch: anytime a new business launches, there is potential to interest the local, national and trade media. Even the smallest of small businesses — yogurt shops, pet groomers, cross fit gyms — can get covered in hyper-local media outlets.
Expansion: if you are a retail store expanding to more locations or a healthcare company like a heart clinic adding a new location and doctors to the practice then you should share that news with local media outlets. A PR agency can refine your message, herd the media to your doorstep and keep you in the spotlight for longer than you can on your own.
Merger or acquisition: when a company enters into a merger or decides to acquire another company then it may have achieved a margin of success that deserves ongoing media outreach. The messaging around mergers and acquisitions needs to be managed so that the positives get emphasized while the possible negatives get put into proper perspective. The last thing you want is the media focused on possible lay-offs or office shutdowns.
Best in class: if your company strives for quality and wants a reputation as a leader in the industry then PR can help. By reaching out to key media outlets –- for example, gaming blogs and magazines if you are a game design startup –- you can improve your chances of getting into the “Best of” or “Top 10” lists that people pay so much attention to these days. How else do you think a relatively unknown barbecue pitmaster like Austin’s Aaron Franklin, founder of Franklin Barbecue, became an overnight sensation leading to a kind of rock-star status, appearances on the Jimmy Kimmel Live, a show on PBS, a successful cook book? To be the best of the best you have to do a little shake-and-bake with the media, and PR is your instrument of choice.
Rapid growth: your company has enjoyed rapid growth and all signs point to ongoing economic success in the form of hiring, investments and profitability. Now is the time to double-down on your overall marketing strategy with a PR campaign aimed at solidifying your reputation. Failing to do that means you give your competition dibs on snagging the glory and owning customer mindshare. In no business book does it say to lose the battle of public opinion to your rival.
Million-dollar baby: there really isn’t a good line in the economic sand to determine the best time to hire a PR agency. I have seen companies earning less that $400 thousand annually pursue a robust PR initiative as part of a calculated strategy to grow revenue and market share. Generally speaking, however, if your company earns north of $1 million annually, then you can probably afford to spend some of your marketing budget on PR as part of an overall growth strategy that should include both inbound and outbound marketing.
Workforce effectiveness: another key objective of PR is to help with internal communications. When you have a workforce in excess of 250 then you are probably inching toward a critical mass that requires you to communicate with employees on a variety of topics: training, safety, hiring, benefits, productivity tips, etc. A PR agency can help you immensely by formalizing your communications with thoughtful, well-composed content. Need to lower workplace injuries, increase sales performance, locate more talent? PR can help with that!
Competitors: if your competition is eating your lunch in the media then it may be time to take their lunch money with a PR strategy of your own. PR is often viewed as a branding exercise, and it does serve to promote a brand, but keep in mind that when consumers research their purchases, they often dip into their recent memories about brands that made a favorable impression. PR excels at winning hearts-and-minds, whipping up passion, and planting semi-conscious cravings in far less time and for much less money than most advertising or marketing campaigns.
Crisis: last, but certainly not least, when something bad happens that impacts the general public, and media catches wind, you could easily have a reputation meltdown if you don’t take immediate and decisive action. Some agencies and PR consultants specialize in crisis communications, while others offer it as part of their overall strategy. Whatever you do, be sure the person you are about to hire is an authentic expert in the field of crisis communications (like our own Libba Letton!) or you may end up regretting the decision. Finally, crisis communications will likely cost a premium simply because it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation requiring around-the-clock reputation monitoring in all forms of media — print, TV, social, radio, digital.
These and many more scenarios justify using some of your hard-earned resources in a sustained PR initiative designed to grow your business, seed the market and generally dominate media buzz in a given industry or market.