1. There different kinds of public relations professionals 2. The right PR person will care about your success (too) and 3. Hire a PR pro!
Full Disclosure: I am a PR pro. I’ve been one for over 20 years. My work has ranged from pitching celebrities to cybersecurity companies. Success has come in many forms. From product launches to content placement, I have seen it all.
The Net-net: Some think professionals like me are hired to tell your story. I think I’m hired to help build and sell your brand to potential investors, partners, and customers. The story is the end to share on stage. I focus on the means to get you there. If you’re on the prowl for a public relations partner, here are some tips to consider:
1. There are different kinds of public relations professionals. They can be broken up as such: Agency, Corporate, or Government.
Agency public relations professionals typically have worked within small, mid-size or large agencies. The experience of the staff and focus of the agency will determine their style (ie. progressive or conservative) and what kind of clientele they have served (ie. start-ups or large brands). There’s no fault in choosing either kind of agency staffer as your public relations counsel. The true test is the fit. Will a person from a progressive or conservative agency meld with your culture? Has that person worked on companies like yours? Agency professionals generally have a lot of experience from people to client management and can handle low to high stress situations.
Corporate public relations professionals are experts in their field. They tend to really know more about a particular space than anyone at an agency because in corporate, they lived it, presumably for many years. They also have a strong grasp on the industry players, analysts, and events. Needless to say, agency staffers can have a similar hold on such information, but are sometimes regarded as outsiders when compared to their corporate twins. For more mature positions, agencies will require that their senior staffers have acquired as much knowledge as those in the corporate world, but are part of a broader team where not every person included will be able to dive so deep. You will need to test your applicants before committing to make sure they are in sync with your team.
Government public outreach professionals are in a category of their own as compared to their private counterparts. A person working in the government sector should not assume to quickly jump into the private sector and represent companies. Government employees in communications departments use language specific to the residents they serve and are in the business to not be in business, but to help, inform, and educate the public. When reviewing a public relations person for a non-government position, the role needs to clearly define requirements that a person applying has experienced or can master within a short period of time, depending upon your needs and resources.
2. The right PR person will care about your success (too)
I have a number of public relations friends who have a lot of success on their resumes. Yours truly, included. But none of us did it alone. Every single successful outcome was a combination of (in this order), the right talent, with the right product/service, at the right time. And, boom. Every single success is a story, a case study, bragging rights. We’re bragging because we can’t believe it ourselves. The perform storm some would say. However, there is one area I will accentuate – the best public relations campaigns succeed because they’re backed by the people who care that they do. Those folks may not be the preeminent experts on the subjects that they’re pitching – no joke – but they understand what they are sending out to editors/reporters and the impact those stories could have on the market, on many levels. Those public relations professionals are ethical, don’t stop when they hit walls, are creative, and committed to the respect that the journalist community deserves and professionally knows how to get their clients’ messages across. It’s a gift every time I get to work with people who share the same excitement and passion as I do.
3. Hire a PR pro! Seriously, don’t just hire anyone to do your public relations. You’ll also need to do more than just weed out non-starters from the answers through an RFP. Sit down with your prospective public relations professional candidates and get to know them. Find out if they have helped built a company’s communications platform like you think you want to build yours. Ask them for ideas. Test their ability to keep a conversation on the subject that you want to pitch. Explore how you will work together. See if they have a broader understanding of the market at-large and how you fit into it. Make them earn your business as you will earn theirs. The next time you interview a public relations candidate, ask them: What kind of PR pro are you? What differentiates you from the rest? Will there ever be a perfect match? Of course not… But, maybe a hire can get you from one stage of growth to another. That’s worth placing a bet. And if you are not absolutely sure if you’re about to hire the right person, ask them for references.
Thank you for reading my insight. If you are looking to interview public relations professionals for consulting / contract / freelance positions, please consider speaking with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415.518.6611.