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Top tips for choosing a PR firm

Many small business owners don’t see the point of PR, but if you’re not using the power of the media to promote your business, you could be missing a trick. You’re also vulnerable to being damaged by bad news and risk trailing behind by your competitors who do use PR and have a higher profile.

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Many small business owners don't see the point of PR, but if you're not using the power of the media to promote your business, you could be missing a trick. You're also vulnerable to being damaged by bad news and risk trailing behind by your competitors who do use PR and have a higher profile. If you have the time and skills in house, it is possible to manage your own PR.

But if you don't, you should use a PR firm that understands how to generate news coverage for small firms.

How do I choose a PR firm?

A good PR firm should be able to demonstrate the following:

  • The ability to write punchy, engaging and accurate news releases
  • Have access to a database of all media in the UK, including local, trade and national. Your news releases should be distributed to all media read by your target customers.
  • Good client testimonials. The PR firm should be able to provide these but also speak to other businesses to find out who they use.
  • Good at their own PR. Look at their website, how much of their own news is on there? If they're no good at promoting themselves, they'll be useless at promoting you.
  • Good quality clients and a good track record of working with small firms
  • How enthusiastic and driven are the firm? To generate media coverage they will need to be persistent, tenacious and professional.
  • A good cuttings folder - look to see how good they are at generating a breadth of coverage in regional, trade and national media.
  • Ask them to produce a costed written proposal. Read through this carefully. Is it well written? Remember, writing is the tool of their trade. If it is littered with grammatical errors, they are unlikely to have the professionalism or attention to detail you require.
  • Look for a broad skill set in their team. Having a journalistic qualification is a good sign.
  • Ensure you have at least one senior person committed to managing your account.

How should the PR campaign work?

Once you've selected your agency, ensure that there is a clearly defined strategy. This must be signed off by you – the boss.

Ensure that it dovetails with your business plan, so you can benchmark its success. Think about key objectives such as winning new business, retaining existing business, raising your profile, giving a clearer understanding of who you are and what you do.

Furthermore, be clear that the PR firm understand your prime services, target audiences, geography and key messages. The PR firm should then action a campaign, which promotes your good news, such as new contracts, products, services and staff. They should also proactively use current affairs to promote what you do and set up profile and interview opportunities across all media.

Also, the PR firm should also help you to manage bad news such as accidents, job losses and customer dissatisfaction.

Build a good rapport with your PR firm

Meet with them at least once a month and look to see if they cultivate news ideas with you and your team. If they are energetic and skilled enough they will feel like part of your team. How can I measure the success of a campaign?

PR can pay handsome dividends on your investment. To know if it's been a success, you should calculate how much business the campaign needs to generate to pay for itself. However, if you're hit with a negative story and your PR firm stops it, or provides you with a persuasive defence, the savings to your business could in fact be innumerable.

Finally, don't underestimate the motivational value of good PR. Pin your success stories up around the office to give staff pride in their work. You and your staff may really enjoy promoting the business in the media.

Moreover having a consistently high media profile will make you more competitive with your rivals.

About the author

Ben Pinnington, is Director of North West based PR firm Artemis Media. For more information visit www.artemismedia.co.uk or email ben@artemismedia.co.uk.

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