Much like a homeowner, a solopreneur must be able to rock multiple hats at once. Another similarity? Both homeowners and solopreneurs are often operating on shoestring budgets.
While a homeowner could reduce costs by taking the DIY route for painting, landscaping and wallpapering, we can most likely all agree that it’s best to call in the pros for structural, plumbing or electrical repair.
Similarly, when it comes to getting publicity for your business, you could take a DIY approach to hyper-local and community coverage, but there comes a time when it’s best to call in the pros. This post is designed to help you realize when that time has come.
You know it’s time to hire a PR professional when…
It’s in the budget – even if it’s limited. Every aspect of business ownership is competing for your money, but if people haven’t heard of your product or service, they simply can’t become your customers. Getting the word out is a critical must. Even if dollars are limited, a creative approach can get you a long way from where you started. Can’t afford to hire a big-time PR firm or a boutique agency? No problem. Get in touch with a local college or university with a public relations/communications program – students routinely get practical experience by creating a PR strategy for a local business with a limited budget. Be that business!
You’re ready to graduate from local coverage. If you’ve already nailed getting in the community paper and on a local TV station, congratulations! Great first step. Ready to move up to shows with a higher profile and a bigger viewership? It’s time to consult the experts. Crafting the right message and determining a unique story angle is what’s going to help your media pitch stand out. The pros have a strong network of contacts and are well-versed in how to be noticeable among a flood of emails.
There’s a huge launch coming up. You’ve invested the time, you’ve invested the money and now it’s time to unleash the latest from your business unto the world – congrats! Bill Gates famously said “If I was down to my last dollar, I'd spend it on public relations.” And rightly so. Even Richard Branson noted that a good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad. Make sure that your message gets delivered to -- and resonates with -- your ideal customer, and that it inspires them to take action, ensuring a successful and profitable launch. Keeping in mind that magazines work with a four- to six-month lead time, start investigating PR providers at least eight months in advance of your launch. Even if you don’t sign a contract immediately, through talking with PR professionals, you’ll get a realistic sense of the time needed to create the requisite materials (i.e. a media kit and spec sheet), then plan and execute your campaign.
It’s difficult to see outside your business. You’re in your business all day, every day — often all night, every night too! It can be near impossible to see your business from a removed, third-party perspective. When you think it’s ‘newsworthy’ that you’re offering the same product in a shiny, brand new colour, or offering the same service but at a different time of day, you’re guilty of being too close to your biz to see the bigger picture. Bring in an expert who can see the newsworthy factor of your brand’s story while marrying it with the hottest news topics of the day. For example, maybe your story could fit into a home magazine, a tech site, the lifestyle section of a newspaper and a morning news show! There are more opportunities aside from the obvious ones and a seasoned expert with an outsider’s perspective can help identify all of them.
You’re in crisis mode. When a major event or negative news affects your business, it’s definitely not the time to navigate PR on your own. To come out on top of a bad situation, the right messaging, timing, and image will be crucial – and a communications specialist with the right skill set will be a lifesaver for your brand and its perception.
Once you’re ready to test the waters with a PR pro, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Look for a provider who offers a short-term contract (between three and six months is ideal), rather than a traditional firm that works on a minimum one-year retainer.
- Negotiate a project fee for a set amount of time and deliverables rather than working with the hourly-rate model where you can be surprised when you get your invoice at the end of the month.
- Rely on referrals -- similar to contractors, you’ll want to put your faith in someone who has a reputation for doing a good job. Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues for their recommendations.
- Pick a PR pro’s brain if you’re still on the fence between going pro vs DIY. More and more PR pros are offering “pick their brain” consultations or sessions where you can share your PR challenges and they can share a solution-oriented approach that you’ll be responsible for executing.
- Stay in the loop with sites like PR Daily that cover the latest industry news and best practices.
When you’re ready for the big leagues, DIY-ing just might not cut it anymore. With the proper “foundation” established by professionals, you’ll be on your way to publicity success!