Hiring a PR Consultant: How it Works

Hiring a PR Consultant: How it Works

contractThe one thing all of our potential clients, large and small, want to know when they’re considering hiring us is, “How does it work?” Hiring any consultant is an investment so it’s important to be prepared before jumping in. We can’t tell you how all consultants work, but we can give you an overview of what happens before we sign a contract with a client.

Usually potential clients contact us by phone or email and in most cases, they’ve been referred by someone who knows us.  The first conversation is usually brief and only includes introductions – who the client is and who we are and what the client is looking for in terms of PR services. Then we set up an initial client consultation. We don’t charge for this consultation, though some consultants do. The initial client consultation lasts about an hour and often begins with the client telling us, in detail, what they want. In other words, they have a an idea about what they’d like us to do for them, from writing a news release to planning an event or another traditional PR task, even placing ads.

Once the client has had a chance to tell us why they’ve contacted us, we ask them a series of questions to determine who their target market is and exactly what they would like to achieve as a result of their PR efforts. Particularly, we want to know what are their quantifiable business goals. We keep asking questions until we get down to specifics like how many widgets they’d like to sell, why, how, and by what date. Then we assess the client’s resources including their budget, their available human resources to implement the PR tactics, the skill sets of those human resources, and the time they have. We discuss perceived challenges to the client achieving their goals and the opportunities that exist. We talk about what kinds of PR tactics they’ve tried and what the results were. We also explain that public relations is a long-term commitment and requires the client’s time and effort.  We are not the ones that need to relate better to their publics; they are. Thus, they need to be committed to carrying out our recommendations.

Once we know what the client wants to accomplish and how we will go about helping them, we create a detailed, written proposal, which we email to the client, usually within a week of our first meeting. The proposal spells out exactly what we will do, when we will do it, how much our professional fee is, what the other expenses are, as well as an overview of what we discussed in the initial meeting. Writing everything down ensures that the client and we are on the same page, literally and figuratively. We also provide potential clients a referral list, past clients of ours that they can contact for more information about us and how we work.

What clients don’t often realize is that they’re not the only ones doing their due diligence.   After we meet with a potential client, we research them. If we suspect that they don’t have good intentions, we don’t give them a proposal. Or, if they’re a new business and they don’t have a business plan, we tell them to write down their plan first and then come back to us when their goals are clearly defined. Or, if it’s clear that the client is looking to be hands-off or is otherwise unwilling to put the necessary resources toward what they want to accomplish, we let them know that now may not be the right time to hire us.

We generally recommend two ways of working together. The first is on a project basis. In this instance, we work with them on a specific job, such as a developing a website, promoting an event, initiating and training them to manage social media accounts, etc.  We charge a one-time project fee and the job is done when the project is completed. The second is on a longer-term (usually about 6 to 12 months), retainer basis in which we create and direct a comprehensive PR Plan. The PR Plan consists of a multitude of strategies and tactics that work together to achieve the client’s goals. In this case, we charge a monthly fee that secures our time for the contracted period. This monthly fee covers our cost of developing the plan, coordinating the implementation of the plan, and being on-call for general PR consultation throughout the contracted period.

Fees always have to be explained clearly.  The amount we charge depends on the depth and complexity of the work, whether it’s a rush job, and if it involves highly sensitive issues.  Clients ask us what our hourly charge is and we tell them, though we also explain that paying a consultant hourly is incredibly inefficient. Clients always get more than they pay for when they hire us on retainer; we become part of their “camp” for the time they retain us. They also have the ability to spread payments out monthly, which is important for their cash flow. When it comes to project fees and full-scale PR plans, those sometimes require us to secure estimates from our associates from web designers to graphic designers, photographers, direct mail houses, attorneys, videographers, and so on.

If the client approves of the proposal, we both sign the contract. After that, we invoice the client for the amount of our down payment. Once that payment is received, we begin our work.

So now you know what happens when a potential client contacts us. It’s a worthwhile process to ensure that expectations are mutually clear and that we can provide the best possible service.

To ensure that you get what you want out of contacting a PR firm, here are a few tips:

  • You don’t need to know what PR efforts you need. That’s the PR firm’s job. They will recommend what they believe is best for you. What you will need to provide them with is what you want to achieve as specific, measurable terms. For example, “I want to sell 5 houses in Greenville in the next six months.”
  • Bring along any current marketing or promotional materials so that the PR firm can become familiar with your current branding and messages.
  • Have an idea of the budget you have available to spend on your PR efforts, and be willing to share this budget with the consultants so that they can recommend the best strategy for that amount.
  • Research the PR firm before contacting them. Write down any questions you want to ask them so that you can ensure that you are clear on how they work and will serve you.
  • Be willing to share. Sometimes companies face challenges or other barriers that they may feel like withholding. No one or company is perfect, and PR firms need to understand your entire situation to provide you with the best recommendations.

Are you interested in outsourcing a PR consultant? Contact us today to inquire about how we can best serve you!

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