18 Jun DIY or PR Agency? Four Questions to Ask
Ever turn on the TV and come across one of those DIY home shows on HGTV or a similar network? I admit; I love ‘em. Nothing quite like seeing someone take a sledgehammer to a dining room wall.
Sadly you won’t find a similar show focusing on a communications or marketing manager trying to decide whether they should tackle a PR program themselves or enlist an outside firm. I understand why this doesn’t exist – I don’t think it would be as compelling as, say, the aforementioned sledgehammer. But if you’re in a position where you need to effectively get the word out about your business, it’s probably something you’ll run into far more often than remodeling your kitchen.
But how do you know if you should hire an agency, or go it alone? That’s tough to answer, because everyone’s foundation and blueprint for success is different.
You can start figuring it out by asking yourself four questions:
1. What are my needs and goals?
Creating awareness around the launch of a new product or service requires a far different approach than promoting a company or its management team. For the former, a short-term project might be sufficient, and that could be something you might be able to handle yourself if you have the resources and time (see questions two and four). On the other hand, creating and sustaining awareness of a company – including its products and services, position in the marketplace, and management team – may dictate the need for an extensive, ongoing program that involves everything from media relations to award and speaking submissions and beyond. Unless you have a large marketing team behind you, this may require the expertise of a PR firm.
2. Do I have the resources in house?
Speaking of which – what does your internal team look like? Is it just you and one or two others, or do you have a whole group of people at your disposal? If you’re going it solo, or even if you only have a couple of internal resources, you might want to consider hiring outside help, both to serve as consultants and “arms and legs” that can help you achieve your goals.
3. What’s my budget?
It’s always the first question that the contractors ask on one of those home shows — and it should be one of the first questions you ask yourself when considering hiring an agency.
Agencies are not inexpensive. This is especially true of full-service firms that offer a combination of media relations, content development, social media strategy and support, and more.
Before even beginning to talk to an agency, ask yourself if you have the financial resources to commit several thousand of dollars per month (if you’re looking at an ongoing retainer) or enough funds to cover a one-off project (often another several thousand dollars). If not, it might be best to maximize your cost efficiencies and examine your in-house options.
4. Do you have the time?
Is it worth your time to do all of the important things that must be done to accomplish a successful PR program, including researching reporters, writing and publishing blogs or press releases, managing social media channels and executive interviews, and more? If so – have at it. If, however, you find the mere thought of doing that overwhelming – and you have the budget available – consider hiring a PR firm.
However — don’t make the mistake of thinking that hiring a firm will get you entirely off the clock. Even though a good PR agency will take a significant load off your communications plate, you’ll still have to invest some time into the relationship, in the form of input, access to executives, meetings, and more. It’ll just be a lot less of a time commitment than a DIY approach involves.
My colleague, Katie Hanusik, had some other great points to make about working with a PR firm in her post on PR for Startups. Check it out – and then take a look at our guide below for some insight into DIY media relations strategies and tactics.