It is not only big corporations that need a PR specialist. Indeed, the size of your company is not a key indicator of the necessity of PR services – public relations can be essential for small scale operations, and for individuals (consider a musician, an artist or a politician). The decision must be decided based on your specific situation – and the examples below demonstrate when it’s really time to hire a PR company.
You have a relationship with your audience
Some businesses are a one-way street, where a message, a particular ethos or a demonstrative expertise are not necessary (for example selling a low volume of products on eBay, where what little public image you require is easily personally manageable). Other businesses, though, must develop a partnership with the public – a more public-facing company must express expertise, aims and personality in a way that public understands and accepts. The companies that make these extra efforts can then form a healthier relationship of give and take.
A specialist is necessary when that relationship requires any kind of extra interpretation, connections or management. A PR agent will present you as an industry expert and help you to deliver your value proposition, creating a good, two-way relationship with your customers or clients through building your story.
You want to create brand recognition
Following from creating a relationship, you also need to create a memorable brand. Good public relations are recognised as the most effective way to do this, and it’s not unknown for strong business owners to spend less on advertisement and more on PR. For example, the tremendous success of the British health-drinks brand Innocent, came from the now famous story they delivered to the market (three friends created smoothies and asked people at a festival if they should leave their jobs to start a company). Such PR generates the right buzz about the brand, and spreads through word of mouth.
You need good quality content
From the writing of a press release or speech to coordinating media appearance and comments from company members, if you have outward communications they require quality control. Your PR is responsible for monitoring the quality and consistency of the content your company produces. This is especially important for international businesses entering a new market. Each culture is very specific and you have to deliver a message which appeals to this audience, which could be completely different from the country you are used to. This is a topic covered in more detail here Why traditional translation is costing global companies sales.
You have many press requests and don’t have a representative to deal with it
Timing can be crucial when delivering your message. If your company has press requests you need a spokesperson or at least somebody with enough expertise to can field questions in a timely manner. To make things easier for the press, and to build a strong long-term relationship, it’s also best if they can deal with one person, not merely whoever is available. A PR specialist will cover all aspects of the business and know how to present the information to the public effectively. Such PR also builds your relationship with the press and those connections are priceless.
You have a press officer but you need to outsource tasks for a big project
Companies occasionally have exceptional projects, like the launch of a new product, media event or press conference, where the in-house team is not enough. In order to benefit from PR services without a huge budget, companies can hire a PR firm or freelance PR specialist for a limited time and a specific job.
You have a crisis situation and need to protect your reputation
Information spreads extremely quickly now, making it more important than ever to react quickly to negative publicity. From something as simple as a negative online review or an angry comment from an ex-employee to an unexpected result of journalist investigation, you have to act fast. You need someone who reacts quickly and efficiently to minimize the damage – a PR specialist, working with the relevant teams, has the expertise to handle this. Consider the recent story about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 — over 2 million devices were recalled, costing the company USD 5.3 billion. In this difficult situation the company’s PR team highlighted the importance of user safety and was open about investigating the issue – adeptly handling the publicity. You can read more about dealing with negative publicity here.
PR is a strategic and complicated area. The person (or company) responsible has to know all about the business, competitors, internal/external relationships, issues, risks, and more, and must apply this information to most effectively benefit the company – in the right way and at the right time. Hiring a PR agency is certainly not always necessary – but it’s a smart move if you have clear business objectives and the resources to invest in such consultancy.