Small business owners have the option of outsourcing their PR or doing it in-house. Farzana Baduel of Curzon PR examines how the two measure up. Find out what is the best way to ensure good PR practice for your SME:
Here’s the scenario: you run a small business and you’ve decided that you’d like to boost your presence in the market. Either you hire a public relations (PR) company to represent you, or you do your own PR in-house. Both options have their pros and cons – doing it yourself can be cheaper, but also more time consuming, while outsourcing can cost a lot and can also lead to client dissatisfaction if there isn’t a clear understanding of expectations and goals between yourself and your PR company.
If you do not have the budget to hire a professional company, you can do it in-house. However, there can be hidden costs and a learning curve in an area you are unfamiliar with – is that time better spent running your business? Doing it yourself also means you won’t have access to the varied skillset and contacts available from a PR company.
Let’s take a look at some of the options and how they compare.
Doing your own PR
If you’ve decided the right option is to keep it in-house, it is important is that you do thorough groundwork. Here are some factors you will need to consider:
- Market intelligence: Do a SWOT analysis, by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Strategy: What are your objectives and key messages? Who is your target audience? What do you want from your PR campaign?
- Communications: How will you reach your audience and what tactics will you use?
Media relations are essential, so take the time to do it right. You’ll need well-written press releases, professional images of yourself and your products and a list of target publications, so find out what your target audience reads.
Take media training sessions to ensure you are on message when interviewed. Research relevant events and pitch yourself as a speaker. Take speaker training and get help with speech writing in order to ensure good delivery. Submit yourself for awards, or pitch yourself as a judge to the event organisers.
You can also organise events: they can be time consuming and costly, but they generate awareness and build relationships, so take the time to ensure your guest list reflects your target audience. Finally, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of social media. Twitter and Facebook, for example, are a great way to engage with your audience.
Hiring a PR company
Hiring a company can be costly, but it will give you access to trained professionals, as well as their multiple skillsets and networks. Access to this range of experts within an agency will give you stronger PR results than if you do it yourself. To start, have a clear brief – you understand your business better than anyone, so present potential PR companies with your business history, current position and where you want your business to be in the future.
What do you want the PR company to achieve for you? Have you got clear business objectives and do you know what your unique selling point and key messages are? What is your target audience? What territories – local, regional, national or international – are you looking to reach? What budget are you comfortable with and what sort of duration of contract? Also, what area of communications would you like to focus on? Events? Media relations? Social media?
Once you have a brief, invite three agencies to pitch. Choose agencies that are familiar with your sector and make it clear exactly what you are expecting for your PR spend. Be realistic. Agree to a written project scope so you know exactly what activity will be carried out. Consider weekly/monthly reviews to ensure the campaign is on track, agree to what needs approval from you and then let them get on with it, using their expertise.
The middle ground
For those who neither have the time to organise their own PR nor the budget to hire a PR company, there are other options. You can hire an in-house PR person as part of your staff. Their duties can include other marketing aspects of your business and this option can therefore be cost-effective and frees you to do other things with your time.
You may, alternately, hire a PR freelancer or a PR company on a project-basis when you need a ‘PR injection’, perhaps for a new product launch or crisis management issues. A freelancer will be more flexible and cheaper than an agency, but an agency will have the ability to cross-fertilise ideas and connections due to their wider remit. They’ll also have an outsider’s view of your business, which can be helpful.
While these options are by no means exhaustive, they outline the main pros and cons of what is available when hiring a PR company or taking a ‘DIY’ approach. Be aware of the hidden costs for the latter, and make sure you know what you want with the former. As long as your goals are clearly defined and you’ve done your market research, you’ll be able to work out the fit that best suits you.