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Should I hire a Publicist?
PR requires patience, dedication, and practice
There are a ton of articles floating around about why you should hire a PR firm. I wrote an article on the top reasons why you should hire a public relations firm last year. But what I didn’t delve into is all of the reasons why not to hire a PR firm. Having run a healthcare PR firm for almost a decade now, I can quickly assess who is going to be a good client fit. If I sense certain red flags, nine times out of 10, I will walk away from the business prior to the start of a new client relationship.
Here’s why: PR is not for everyone. PR is expensive, time-consuming, and it requires a lot of work from the client as well as the agency. Additionally, there are many misconceptions about public relations that can hurt your campaign efforts from getting off the ground. Not only is it important to understand what a PR firm can do for your business, it is also important to evaluate if you have the necessary time to truly work with an agency.
If you fit any of the criteria below, I recommend not hiring a publicist.
You want instant, overnight results. If you are someone who likes instant gratification, you will be unhappy with any publicist you hire, unless their Rolodex is made of gold. As a PR practitioner, I rarely meet other publicists who pick up the phone, dial an editor at Vogue, and instantly get their clients written about. That kind of myth is a remnant that still exists from the old days of PR. Publicity takes work. No matter how strong the publicist’s relationship with an outlet is, if the story isn’t strong enough, then the reporter isn’t going to cover it.
You don’t want to do any work. This is the biggest issue that I encounter in the PR industry today. People hire a publicist the way they hire an accountant. They think that they can hire a vendor, speak to them a few times a year, and that publicity will magically happen. In reality, PR requires daily engagement from the client-side. The clients who are happiest with PR results put the most amount of time into driving the client-agency relationship. They read the news, send stories to their publicists to pitch, and write back to their publicists with thoughtful responses to HARO queries. In short, they put in the time. PR is like a sport. It requires patience, dedication, and practice.
You don’t have the time to provide the necessary thought leadership content. As an industry, PR has shifted. Most clients don’t want traditional press placements anymore; they want digital placements. To achieve digital PR results, a substantial amount of time is required from the client-side to provide thought leadership tips for content creation. For example, if you are a neurosurgeon and you hire a publicist, it is not their job to ghostwrite tips for you. They simply can’t because they don’t have your knowledge base. Unless you’re looking for low-quality work from a content farm, you need to send your public relations specialist what they are asking for. They can’t promote your greatness without the core knowledge that only you possess.
You expect PR to translate into sales. Your publicist is not your Director of Sales. This is the number one reason most agencies get fired: clients are unhappy that the press placements didn’t generate a massive uptick in sales. The role of a publicist is to formulate stories that get the media’s attention and result in a media placement. If a publicist is getting you consistent national media placements, then they are doing what you hired them to do. The problem is when clients start complaining, “I know you got me a three-page spread in a glossy magazine, but it didn’t translate into new business.” That is the equivalent of saying to your dentist, “I know you filled my cavity, but you didn’t fix the pain in my jaw. The pain in your jaw should be seen by a doctor, not your dentist, and it’s not the dentist’s responsibility. The same goes for sales and PR.
You want to be “famous.” If you want to hire a publicist because you aspire to be famous, please don’t. Clients who hire publicists because they want to be famous are the worst clients. Saying you want to be famous is like saying you want to be President someday in the future. What qualifies you to be famous? What is interesting about you? What star-worthy quality do you have that makes you press-worthy? Ego-driven PR is not a strategy; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. Fame is the end product of many years of work in a specific industry. The publicist’s job is to bring attention to what you makes you special, not to make you special.
You have nothing newsworthy to promote. I get that you have a new business. So does everyone. What makes it different? Why should the media write about it? If you haven’t thought these answers through, you need to. Unless you are looking for a one-hit-wonder PR campaign, you will be unhappy. Granted, it’s the publicist’s job to come up with these press angles, but if you don’t have newsworthy content, the media won’t write about you. If you hire a PR firm and have convinced yourself how newsworthy your story truly is, please don’t blame a publicist if they can’t get it placed. Your Mom thinking something is great is not the same thing as a reporter at Forbes thinking something is great.
You think PR will solve inherent business issues. A lot of people hire publicists thinking it will fix a core issue in their business. PR can’t solve these issues. If anything, it can make them worse. For example, if you are a Fortune 500 company and have constant turnover, chances are greater something pertaining to this story will come out while working with a PR person. The reason being that if a publicist secures a story on your company, any journalist worth his or her salt will start digging around and notice certain discrepancies. It’s best to have everything buttoned up before hiring a New York PR firm.
You saw a competitor on TV and now you want to be on TV. Believe it or not, this is one of the most commonly listed reasons that prospects come to me for PR services. They see someone else doing it, and therefore, they think they should be doing it too. If you hire a publicist to get you on TV and they get you a media hit, you are expected to drop everything you have scheduled for the day, close up shop, and run down to Manhattan to do national TV appearance. If you say no, the chances of the opportunity coming around again are slim to none. Are you really prepared to close your business for the day just because you saw someone else on TV?
You aren’t good with long-term commitments. When you hire a New York PR firm, you have to be in it for the long haul. The average agency retention rate is incredibly low; at the typical agency, every six months clients seek new agency representation. Clients run from agency to agency, thinking the problem was with the publicist. The truth is that you will be happier with your results if you stick with one firm for long enough. Most publicists won’t work on engagements for less than 6 months. If they are pitching long lead editorials in print publications, some of the placements may not even come out until after your relationship ends. The first one to three months of any new public relations engagement requires a lot of upfront prep work and the next three months requires heavy pitching to journalists and producers. I rarely encounter a new client who is ready to go to media from day one. The best PR client I have has stayed with me for 9 years. They understand the business and are in it for the long haul.
You aren’t willing to drop everything for a press request. When a reporter does answer; they want to speak to a client immediately. If you work in an industry where this just isn’t an option, then PR may not be the best approach for you. There is no worse feeling than getting a client an interview and not being able to do it because they are unavailable or turned it down. In the PR industry, there is nothing more important than getting back to a reporter or producer ASAP. If you aren’t ready to drop everything to speak to the media, then PR may not be right for you.
Remember, the tough part of working with a PR firm is not only evaluating whether they can get you results. If you are working with a reputable PR agency, I’d like to imagine they can secure results for your business.
The more challenging question is: are you willing to do the work on your end after they get you the segments and interviews? Or are you going to turn down every interview request and try to have the media work around your schedule? Hint: that will never happen.
You want to be known as an expert, but you’re not truly an expert (yet!). You must be a legitimate subject matter expert in your field before approaching an agency. A publicist can’t turn you into an expert. You have to be an expert to begin with, with or without the help of a publicist. A publicist cannot make up for a lack of expertise in your field. They cannot fill in the blank. They cannot make up expertise out of thin air. You must be a credible source to begin with before retaining a firm. If you are not, thought leadership PR will be a total waste of time, not to mention, insincere. No reputable PR firm will want to pitch you to their trusted relationships with media outlets if they don’t believe your credentials. Spend more time getting additional certifications and real-world experience before hiring a PR firm. PR is not a right; it is a privilege. Do the work required to step into the limelight. If not, any falsities or half-truths will be exposed in a very public way. To save yourself the hassle of a future crisis, retain a PR counsel after you have put in the time in your industry, not before.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | KRISTEN RUBY
KRIS RUBY is the CEO of Ruby Media Group,® an award-winning public relations and media relations agency in Westchester County, New York. Kris Ruby has more than 15 years of experience in the Public Relations industry. She is a sought-after media relations strategist, personal branding specialist, content creator and public relations consultant. She is also an on-air TV commentator and pundit on cable news. She graduated from Boston University’s College of Communication with a major in public relations and is a founding member of The Young Entrepreneurs Council.
ABOUT RUBY MEDIA GROUP
Ruby Media Group is an award-winning Public Relations Agency. We help Executives secure earned media exposure and publicity coverage through content marketing, traditional media relations, digital PR, SEO, and personal branding. We are responsible for helping 100+ C-Suite Executives land Tier-1 media placement for their brands and corporate ventures.
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NY PR FIRM RESOURCES: ADDED BONUS!
1 HOUR PODCAST EPISODE ON HOW PUBLIC RELATIONS WORKS
As a result of this article, NY Public Relations Strategist Kris Ruby was invited to be a guest on “Focus is Your Friend: Double Down on Marketing that Matters.” Click the link below to listen to the full podcast interview.
What you’ll learn from this episode:
- Kristen’s article “Top 10 Signs You Shouldn’t Hire a Publicist”
- Why a NY publicist cannot get you instant, overnight results
- Why you shouldn’t hire a NY publicist if you don’t want to do any work
- Why you need to dedicate the time to do the thinking required for thought-leadership Public Relations
- The unrealistic expectations placed on outsourced NY PR firms that isn’t placed on in-house PR
- Why you shouldn’t do a PR campaign because you want to be famous
- Why a good NY publicist cannot accept money for a story they know won’t get placed
- The purpose of Public Relations
- What Public Relations is and why it is so important for your business
- Why PR cannot solve inherent business issues
- Why you have to be willing to drop everything when a journalist calls
- The top 5 reasons to hire a NY PR firm
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Ruby Media Group is an award-winning NY Public Relations Firm and NYC Social Media Marketing Agency. The New York PR Firm specializes in healthcare marketing, healthcare PR and medical practice marketing. Ruby Media Group helps companies increase their exposure through leveraging social media and digital PR. RMG conducts a thorough deep dive into an organizations brand identity, and then creates a digital footprint and comprehensive strategy to execute against.