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You have probably heard that Public Relations (PR) can help your business grow and make you money. Who doesn’t want that? However, you’re not quite sure how it works, what it should cost or who is good at it.

You ask to be put in touch with a “PR professional,” this mythical creature who has relationships with the press and can supposedly get you published in all the top newspapers and magazines. It sounds awesome, and you’d love to be able to say you’ve been published.

However, where do you start? Do you know what you need PR for? Do you understand what it can do for your business? How do you know if the PR professional is good at what they do?

You don’t know what you don’t know, so here are some tips on how to have an effective conversation with a PR consultant or agency, to make sure you are getting what you need to help you reach your goals.

What can PR do for me and my business?

PR is not one size fits all. Like any business objective, it has to have a certain strategy, depending on what your goals are. It also has to be the right time and yes – there is a good and a bad time for PR. Know your goals, and then start with these questions:

  • I’ve heard the term PR before but I’m not sure what it means exactly. Can you explain to me what you or your firm specifically does for brands?
  • My company is working toward a particular business goal (i.e., app downloads, investor awareness, more customers, brand awareness, etc.). How can PR help with this?
  • Agencies seem to offer the same things on their websites — is there anything in particular that you or your agency specializes in?
    Why is this a good time for me to engage with PR?

By having these answers, you’ll have a better idea on what exactly PR can do to support your specific business goals. Any good PR person should be able to have this conversation with you and provide examples and clear explanations.

Are you a good PR professional? How do I know?
Just like sales, a good PR person will sell you on their capabilities and what their value proposition is. This is great, but you want tangible examples. Here are some questions to help you dive deeper:

  • Can you give me some recent examples of wins that you have gained for your clients and explain to me how you got them?
  • What reporters or clients would refer you and what would they say about you?
  • What are our biggest communications challenges, from your point of view? Note: if they know they are getting on a call with you, they should have looked at your website already.
  • Realistically, what will it take to meet my business objectives?

You’ll feel a lot better once you have an understanding of the successes this person has had, and what it took to get there. Don’t be afraid to ask about process, results and work style.

How do I know what success looks like?
One thing to remember is that PR is about giving you exposure and leading potential readers, clients and customers back to your website/company. But, how much is media coverage is reasonable for what sized scope? 10 hits? 3 pieces of coverage? What does success look like? It’s important to level-set on this right off the bat. Questions to ask:

  • I understand that PR placements are not guaranteed – how do I know what success looks like when working with you?
  • What methods do you use to measure impact?
  • How many pieces of coverage can I expect to get in the first 90 days, with the content/news that I have?
  • Is my budget sufficient to accomplish our goals?

Now when you come across a PR person or agency who wants to work with you, you have a solid idea on what the smart questions are to ask to make sure you understand the strategies and what services are being rendered.