There’s nothing quite like returning a call or an email within a few minutes to communicate someone is a top priority. I try to do it in my personal life, likewise in my professional dealings.
It’s something that helps distinguish you from the pack. When it comes to retaining PR support in Chicago or elsewhere, it also happens to illustrate one of the traits–ongoing access and communication–that you should not only look for in retaining someone, but insist upon as the relationship proceeds.
Here are five other characteristics to watch for:
1. Numerous referrals/case studies
Does your prospective publicist have a strong roster of satisfied clients, with supporting testimonials and case studies?
This is the bread-and-butter of marketing campaigns. Any organization that's been around for even a little while will have a list of satisfied customers, happy campers or some variation on "pleased" and "clients" who have been willing to attach their name and company's name to an entity that has done right by them.
Beware of taking on a PR firm that does not get this--or, at least, has not helped enough organizations to have developed a list of at least a handful of unabashed fans.
2. No-fee, no-obligation initial consultation
Does your prospective publicist offer a no-fee, no-obligation initial consultation?
And does your prospective publicist offer immediate value to you during that first meeting—sharing ideas and insights that you can implement, even if you don't retain his or her services?
We're not talking about expecting the PR operation to give away the store, of course. But if you are not walking away from that first meeting with at least one or two points that can serve your enterprise, you would do well to question if that prospect has the goods to help you on a consistent basis.
3. Enthusiasm and belief in you
Does your prospective publicist exude genuine enthusiasm for you, your organization, and the qualities that set you apart from others in your field?
Without this fuel in the tank, then public relations efforts will sputter in a going-through-the-motions fashion. Belief in you, and in what you are doing, is a magical quality that shines through in a variety of communications.
4. Well-developed media connections
Does your prospective publicist have a strong network of media contacts that they have cultivated over the years, either by working alongside them in the media, or by connecting effectively with them via previous PR campaigns?
You might want to ask your candidate to offer the names of a few newspaper reporters or television producers who would be willing to discuss the publicist's quality of work and ability to serve their needs.
5. Hands-on attention from an experienced pro
This is a big one when you are considering a highly touted and higher-priced public relations firm. Does your prospective publicist deploy seasoned professionals on your account, or do they reserve those battled-tested veterans only for winning your business?
As a freelance reporter for the likes of the Chicago Tribune and Time magazine, I frequently got the feeling that when young, green public relations associates contacted me, it was largely so they could impress their client by saying, "See, we pitched your story to this-and-that media outlet."
Don't settle for this bait-and-switch gambit. Insist on having experienced professionals who handle the bulk of PR duties for your organization.
This is a condensed version of a column that I wrote and which appeared earlier this month in Bulldog Reporter.