A far more important question should be, “What are the most important qualities I should look for in a publicist?”
Once you know that, then you can start looking.
Here are 15 qualities I’ve identified, with help from my readers. Use them as a checklist when looking for your candidates, and ranking them. The publicist you choose might not have all of these traits, but do your best to make sure that the person you eventually choose has most of them:
- Experience, with a strong track record of successes. This is at the top of the list for a good reason.
- Impeccable oral and written communication skills.
- They are well-groomed and present themselves well. Remember that they will be representing YOU in front of the media.
- Creative. They should suggest one idea after another on an ongoing basis, even after you’ve been working with them for months. How do you find this out during the interview? Ask them to describe for you several things they did they’re proudest of—things that took real creativity to accomlish. But also ask their references.
And ask them what they do once they’ve scored a major media hit for you. Here are 15 ways that publicist Michelle Tennant publicizes her clients’ publicity.
- Curious. Make note of how many questions the publicist asks you during the interview. They should be curious about your background, experience, business philosophies—things that might lend themselves to story ideas later. Beware of the publicists who seem disinterested in you and talk only about themselves.
- A sense of urgency. Make note of how quickly the candidate responds to your phone calls and emails. Do you have to wait a day or two for the publicist to get back to you? If so, that kind of responsiveness to media requests will be deadly.
- Disciplined follow-up. If your interview process is slower than you had hoped, and they don’t hear from you for a week or two, do they follow up with you to see where the project stands—and do so without being a pest? When working with the media, follow-up is critical.
- Outgoing, energetic and determined. These should be given more points than “a big name.” I’ve met a few well-known public relations people whose names I had heard for years. But when I met them, they looked tired and listless, as though they wished they were working in any job other than P.R. Maybe they had a bad day. Or maybe they’re always like this.
- Honest. You can ask question designed to get them to talk honestly about themselves and their past experiences. (“What’s the worst mistake you ever made when working for a client?” “What kind of client isn’t a good fit for you?”) If they dodge the questions, beware. The perfect publicist will be honest with you.
- They offer value beyond what you would expect. You can find out more about this when you check references.
- Friendly. This is imperative. They don’t need to be chummy with you or with their media contacts. But they must be open and approachable. And they must know how to accept “no” gracefully from gruff reporters.
- Professional from start to finish. Your reputation with the media hinges on how your publicist performs.
- Trustworthy. Was the publicist able to earn your trust without making outrageous claims or promises? If so, she can probably earn the media’s trust, too.
- Confident. Publicists deal with rejection almost daily. They have to bounce back from every “no thanks” they hear, knowing they’re that much closer to a “yes.”
- Enthusiastic. I wouldn’t hire someone to promote me who was less than enthusiastic about me or my business. You shouldn’t either.
Now that you know the 11 traits to look for, consider the one thing that you can’t research, look for, or ask about. Instead, you feel it in your gut. It’s chemistry.
If, during an interview with a candidate, you just can’t see yourself taking direction from him, that’s a red flag. So is the feeling that “there’s something about her that bothers me, but I can’t pinpoint it.”
If you’ve hired a publicist who’s darn near close to perfect, what traits did you notice that you’d add to this list? Publicists, am I wrong about any of these?