Picture this: You’re in a marketing meeting discussing plans and tactics when someone starts talking about PR. You decide you should explore it as a way to get the word out about your company, product or service.
As you think about taking that next step to look into your options, a very important question to ask yourself is: Are you really ready for PR?
As a PR pro, I want your answer to be yes, because I believe so strongly in the value of public relations. Sometimes, however, you may think you’re ready—when the reality is, you’re not.
What do I mean when I say you may not be “ready”? There’s a mindset that goes along with a successful public relations effort.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself to determine whether you’re truly ready to start a PR push:
1. Are your expectations realistic?
If you’ve never done any PR for your business and start out expecting to be in the Wall Street Journal overnight, you need to reset your expectations. PR takes time.
While PR practitioners would love to show immediate results for all their clients (and sometimes, they do), it may take more time. It’s not like advertising, where you pay for the space and know the ad is coming out in the next issue of the magazine.
If you’re not ready to be in it for at least three to six months, it may not show benefits or meet your expectations. Give it a chance before you make a call on whether or not it’s working for you.
2. Can you let go?
PR involves putting your best messaging out there and then letting it go into the hands of journalists. I recently worked with a company whose executives had to be educated on the idea that, if we issued a press release, not every story would say verbatim what was in the release.
Will the story always be exactly what you expect or want? Probably not, but to reap the rewards, there are some risks. The rewards are more than worth it.
3. Are you ready to engage?
PR pros, no matter how experienced they may be, can’t do PR in a vacuum. Without information from the client, it’s a losing effort.
Maybe you don’t have the time to engage in PR. If you don’t, it’s probably not the right time to start. We need to meet with you at least occasionally. We need you to send us relevant information or direct us to the appropriate contacts to gather data. Can you follow through on your end of the bargain?
4. Do you understand PR isn’t magic?
There are things PR can do, and things it can’t. For example, if a media pitch gets the client an interview, is that a guarantee a story will appear? No. Any number of things could happen along the way to change things up. Maybe the reporter was suddenly assigned to a breaking story. Maybe the editor killed the story because there wasn’t room. Maybe the story took a different direction, and the client was no longer fit.
Do we like it that when it happens? Of course not, but, the reality is that it can happen. PR opens the door to opportunities, but if you want a guarantee, you’ll need to buy ad space.
5. Can you embrace opportunities when they come?
If we land you an interview or meeting with a reporter, we expect you to greet it with open arms. This is usually the reaction. Occasionally, though, clients will decide it’s OK to blow off meetings with reporters. Yes, it happens, and if it does, the PR pro is going to wonder (as will the journalist) if the client is truly serious about achieving coverage. Not to mention that it can be a relationship killer. Reporters may be far less likely to want to work with a company in the future if they cancel a meeting. Their time is valuable.
On a related note, if a publication asks for a sample of your product, be ready to send it. I once worked with a client who had a golden opportunity to have a product reviewed but were unwilling to send the product without demonstrating it first—and weren’t willing to figure out a way to do that. So, the editor moved on, and they lost the opportunity.
The lesson here? Don’t hold back—embrace the opportunities that come your way.
6. Can you overcome the fear factor?
There’s sometimes a fear involved with the unknown, but in general, the media isn’t “out to get” companies by writing negative product reviews or sharing misinformation. There’s a trust factor there. If you can’t trust the process, then maybe PR isn’t for you.
7. Can you provide constructive feedback?
If we send over an idea for a story pitch or press release or contributed article, we'd like some input from the client to make sure it’s on track. What did you like—or not like—about it? Often, we expect to get feedback, not just a sign-off, so you may have to invest a little time into reviewing what we send you.
Now, I believe in my skills as a writer, but even I don’t expect my first draft to be perfect. Most in PR will agree, we need, and value, the client’s feedback.
The bottom line: PR can do wonders for a company that’s ready. If you’re ready to put the power of PR to work for you, do it. Then, maximize your success by revisiting these questions from time to time to make sure you’re helping to support your PR team’s efforts.
(A version of this was previously published by Entrepreneur.)