5 Raw Truths About Hiring a PR Agency

October 24, 2022

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” - Daniel J. Boorstin

A powerful PR team is a force to be reckoned with. As organizations heard the wakeup call through the trying times of the pandemic –  where businesses lost millions due to missed messaging opportunities – more have turned to professional communications teams to help navigate economic storms and boost brand awareness. And the proof? Well, it’s in the PR ‘pudding.’ In fact, global market revenue for the public relations industry is expected to reach $129 billion by 2025, a nearly 33% increase from where the industry stood last year. 

A catchy headline, an information-packed article, a viral social media post–  getting the right brand messaging amplified at the right time is the result, but what about the equation? Bolt PR President Caroline Callaway is helping us tear down common industry misconceptions and replace them with the raw truths about hiring a PR agency. From behind the scenes information gleaned from her 20+ year PR career to the uncut truths of what a partnership really entails, we’re weighing in with everything you need to know on your quest to find that perfect partnership. 

1. It’s a partnership, not a vendor relationship.

A PR match-made-in-heaven is more than shaking hands on a deal. When a business hires a PR firm, they are taking on a team of industry experts to insert their brand in the right conversational spaces with the right people. However, this isn’t simply paying an agency to write and publish marketing promotions. A successful PR partnership requires both sides aligning and joining together. Think of this as an alliance with another city that has the resources you may not have in the face of battle. This alliance requires open and honest communication, managing and understanding expectations, responsiveness, sharing of information and ideas, and active listening on both sides. In order for this partnership to “win the war,” egos must be lowered and mutual trust and respect in one another must be raised. If you’re not quite sure where to start, try a few of these top questions to ask a PR agency the next time you chat with a potential agency partner. 

2. Brand-building is not an overnight feat.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your brand. When committing to PR services, plan to be in it for the long-haul – at least a minimum of one year (you can do it, we promise, and you will love it). True success in brand-building momentum takes time to ignite and multiply. It all begins with the first interview, the first big media placement, and then the snowball effect ensues. Keep in mind, media outlets are chasing the hottest stories and craving those buzz-worthy headlines that draw attention and engagement. This does not simply happen overnight, but once your brand becomes a hot topic, the results will be realized. This is why the worst thing a business can do when their big story is just around the next bend is end a PR partnership early. It’s like running 26 miles of a marathon and throwing in the towel in the last .2 stretch to the finish line. Sure, strong PR firms can create results quickly, but to truly supercharge a brand and see 10x ROI, it takes time and commitment.

3. Journalists write the stories. Period.

If you want to control every word of the story, buy an ad. If you want to tell a brand story through the lens of a credible third party, trust PR. The job of a PR professional is to shape the story. They need to be able to provide the right messaging, visuals, access to company spokespersons, and tell the story to the right reporter at the right time. However, the journalist’s goal is a bit different. They write for their audience’s interests. Perhaps that’s why you’ve found yourself frustrated in the past, thinking that a public relations team didn’t deliver on expectations. Now, if you’re wondering whether it would be cheaper to invest in ads over PR, you may be surprised to discover that PR is actually much more cost-effective than advertising. For example, one hosted article on TechCrunch costs $20K for one month which is about the same price as one month of a solid PR retainer. In addition, that same story angle could appear in 10+ outlets in a single month through PR, told through a variety of trusted third-party perspectives.

4. Media contacts matter… until they don’t.

Every PR professional worth their salt has close relationships with journalists that are highly valued and treasured. Yet, PR pros can’t possibly know absolutely everyone. Plus, journalism is an industry where jobs are changed frequently. And even the best of media friends will not put their own jobs on the line to write a nonsense, no-one-cares story. What are we trying to say here? Well, relying on a PR agency who knows how to tell a darn good story is crucial. In fact, it’s everything. Then, friends or not, media contacts can’t help but snag the storyline that is already jumping off the page –  before it even gets there.

5. Trust is paramount.

Hire the agency your gut tells you to trust – the one that takes care of their people. You can tell the agencies where people are happy and enthusiastic. In a positive culture, PR professionals love their jobs and care about their work, especially the people behind the brands they partner with. They will always go the extra mile and will work to make you proud every day. The agency’s overall team culture should also mesh well with yours. If it doesn’t, unwanted friction may result and the atmosphere of productivity will be lost. This is especially why you want a team that is thrilled to work with you. They come to every meeting charged up and ready to share the boldest and brightest ideas; ideas that are outside of the box and innovative, because you’re not partnering with a “yes man.” An agency that nods their head at everything you say isn’t propelling your brand to the top. And finally, trust the agency with the track record. Case studies should be provided proactively at any time and should show specific results. If a PR agency isn’t willing to share past work, grab your running shoes, and head for the door. 

Now that you've seen a peek into the uncensored world of public relations, we hope you’re prepared for a genuine partnership where egos, jargon, and stuffy suits go out the window. Because the raw truth about PR is where creative hands get dirty, clients are partners, expectations are managed, and powerful storylines are magnified to the masses. 

Don’t trust our word? Hear it from a few of the (other) greats: 

“If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I would spend it on public relations…” –Bill Gates

“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.” – S. H. Simmons

“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson

“Historically, PR, Marketing and Advertising budgets are the first to be cut; however, that could be one of the first mistakes a business makes in an economic crisis.” – CBSMarketwatch 

PR is indeed brilliantly effective. Check out a few Bolt case studies for more evidence on how far an expert team can take your brand. And please, ask us for more. 

At Bolt PR, charging up PR strategy is the name of our game. When it comes to putting products in front of the right consumers and managing economic storms with powerful media relationships, there’s no other team with more passion and talent backed up by decades of experience. From industries, such as food and beverage, fashion, femtech, retail, health and wellness, and more, Bolt PR has the know-how and drive to make your brand shine on center stage. 

Are you ready to form an alliance with a PR Agency that knows a thing or two about taking brands from zero to hero in competitive marketplaces? You’re only one conversation away from greatness.

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