Jennifer Walzer, founder and chief executive of Backup My Info!, a company that does online data back-up, discusses her experiences with a PR firm and passes along advice on how to make the relationship go smoothly.
You’ve probably heard several of her tips before such as know your key message and schedule frequent status meetings with your PR rep. She also advises PR firms to check with their clients first before using their names in testimonials.
I’ve compiled my own list of do’s and don’ts. Here they are, exceprted from my ebook How to Hire the Perfect Publicist.
8 Things You Should Never Do
When you hire a publicist, promise yourself that you will NEVER:
- Tell the publicist you think you know better than he does do how to do a certain task he’s done for years, with great success.
- Rewrite the publicist’s press releases.
- Go behind the publicist’s back and send letters, gifts or anything else to media contacts.
- Force the publicist to work within certain constraints because you’re too cheap to spend the money to do your publicity campaign right. A publicist called me recently to complain that her client refused to make his press releases available to the media in anything other than a PDF attachment that is emailed. Most reporters don’t bother opening email attachments. The publicist suggested that he post the releases at his website, but he said that was too much trouble and too expensive.
- Tell the publicist you want national coverage, then get cold feet and refuse an interview when a major magazine or a TV news show calls.
- Insist that the publicist ask a reporter to let you read a story before it’s printed.
- Tell the publicist you don’t want to interview with reporters who are out to write “bad news” stories about you.
- Demand that the publicist write and send a press release about something she knows is not newsworthy.
15 Ways to Help Your Publicist
- Start with a plan. You and your publicist must know and agree which audience you are targeting, how you will reach them repetitively, how you will capture their attention and why they will buy your product or service.
- Explain your work style. Do you like to be involved at every step of a project, or do you like to give direction and let the publicist handle the project?
- Explain how you want to receive updates (phone, fax, email).
- Be willing to educate the publicist on the product or service you are promoting.
- Communicate frequently with your publicist. If you don’t like an angle, explain why and listen to her response. The publicist knows how to sell it to the media and your other targeted markets. You should always have final approval of all materials, but your publicist must be fully behind the story angles to do the best job for you.
- Revisit your plan often and decide whether to stay on track or follow new opportunities.
- Ask the publicist what you can do to save money, such as Internet marketing, yet not compromise the effectiveness of the campaign.
- Before you call your publicist, make a list of questions or concerns you have throughout your campaign and fax or email them so the publicist can return the call when it is most convenient. Ask your publicist when the majority of follow-up calls to the media are made, and avoid calling at those times.
- Encourage your publicist. As they make your media calls, they hear “no” more than a salesperson and a 2-year-old combined. Ask what common rejections they are receiving so you can offer new ideas.
- Ask the publicist how you will know what is happening throughout your campaign. Will you receive weekly reports? Reports as possibilities arise? Reports when results happen?
- Get involved. If you let the publicist do everything and make all the decisions, you’ll be stuck once the contract has expired and you’re on your own. Ask the publicist to teach you a few skills you can use after the project is completed.
- Be honest with the publicist and explain what information about your company cannot be shared with the media. Are any areas of your company off-limits to photographers? Are any executives not to be bothered with media interviews? Are certain clients never to be identified?
- Take the time to answer the publicist’s questions so they can learn about your business quickly.
- Mention problems as soon as they occur, before the problems have a chance to become even bigger.
Ask your publicist periodically, “What can I do to help you?”
Don’t Expect the PR Firm to Do It All
One final piece of advice: Become actively involved in your own publicity campaign by doing things such as blogging, maintaining a Facebook Fan Page (see 11 Ways to Avoid Missed Opportunies on Facebook) and sharing helpful advice for your target audience on Twitter. Answer questions on LinkedIn. Comment at other people’s blogs.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll be off to a great start!
Publicists and PR pros, what advice do you have for people who hire you?
If you’re someone who has worked with a publicist, what have you done to make the project a success?