Your company is seeking help with Public Relations. You want more print media exposure, a unified web presence incorporating Facebook and Twitter. It would be nice to host quarterly media events at your facility and as President and CEO, you want to make yourself available for speaking engagements in the local business community. Oh, and the blog, can’t forget the blog.
You know where you want to go with your PR program. The question now is, “How do we get there?”
Do not even consider delegating these tasks to existing employees or taking them on yourself. They will be tangential to one’s primary role and efforts will be marginal at best. If progress is made, the efforts will not be integrated across the company and you’ll end up with unsatisfactory results. Don’t stint on the important job of promoting your company.
If you have an In-House PR department, the first question is why isn’t it handling these things already. If it’s a new entity, ensure that the in-house talent is up to getting your objectives accomplished.
If there’s a solid talent pool, but a couple of the missions are out of their realm of expertise (perhaps some of the newer, social media stuff) then contract with an outside source to get programs in place and instruct your staff on how to maintain and monitor the resulting programs.
When Looking Outside
If you have no PR staff on the payroll but aren’t ready to contract with a large firm, consider bringing in PR Freelancers or Contractors. There are many, many unemployed journalists about now, and these folks could bring great experience and contacts with them.
Should you feel more comfortable working with an established firm and want to forego the extra work that managing an in-house team requires, it’s time to look at agencies.
Step one is to take advantage of the decidedly low-tech grapevine. Ask around, ask at every luncheon and networking event—ask lots of questions. “Which agency do you use and why?” “What’s been your biggest challenge working with the Acme Agency?” “Are they strong in social media promotion?” “Can they….?” Any information you collect is going to help you make an informed decision that you’re more likely to be happy with.
Every agency or person you interview is going to provide references. Go ahead and check them. Then, keep researching independently. References are only given if one expects a glowing report. The reality is likely somewhat less shiny.
Spend time with the candidate or the agency representative and interview them in depth. Ask open ended, situational questions that require thought-filled replies that reveal something about the person’s attitude towards their work and the depth of their skills.
For example, if I ask the question “Are you comfortable working with social media?” I should be smacked. It’s a “yes-no” question and additional information will have to be dragged out of the interviewee.
Even if you know next to nothing about Facebook, et al, when you ask the candidate to “Describe a project you’ve worked on involving social media and tell me both what you accomplished and why you’re proud of it” you’ll draw forth a lot more information. Perhaps you can’t follow the tech-speak that’s sure to ensue, but you’ll get a good sense of the candidate’s enthusiasm, what they enjoyed about the job and a glimpse of their work persona.
Ask the same type of question about something that tanked. It’s important to know how a prospective employee is going to rebound if things go awry. How they describe the situation will give you an idea of how he or she deals with the inevitable set-backs on the job.
With a comprehensive plan and due diligence in the hiring process, you can hire a PR Specialist well suited to accomplishing your PR goals.