9 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring a Publicist

Getting publicity through local press interaction is a good start for getting your own publicity, but hiring a professional publicist can often be the next “step” to getting the coverage you’d like to see for your brand.

A professional publicist will help you see your story through a new lens and can help you pitch your story to local press on more occasions than just a new product launch or community outreach event. Publicists help you see the value you can provide to the local press, not just the benefits they can bring to you.

Before hiring a publicist to promote your brand, there are a few questions you need to ask to ensure that your money is being spent in the most efficient way. Remember that higher paid publicists don’t always produce better results.

1. Is this Actually Your Publicist?

Larger publicity firms will sometimes farm out smaller or newer clients to their recent college graduate employees to help them get them gain experience. If the firm’s previous high-profile placements were done by senior level publicists, you should confirm before you start your media campaign that your story will be handled by higher level publicists at the firm instead of the newbies looking for a lucky break.

2. How Long Have You Been a Publicist?

A good rule of thumb is that a publicist should have at least 6 or 7 years of previous industry experience before handling their own firm. Publicists need strong relationships with both brands and press outlets to be successful at their job. 6 or 7 years working at a publicity firm is typically a healthy amount of time to build relationships with press outlets that can help your business get the press coverage it needs.

3. Do You Have Journalistic Experience?

Good publicists usually hone their skills working on the other side of the media landscape – as journalists. Journalists have very specific needs for weekly, monthly, or yearly publications. A publicist with knowledge of lead times, industry standards, and typical stories for a publication will stand a much better chance of getting press for a client than someone blanket-mailing press releases.

4. Which PR Firms Have You Worked For?

Don’t be afraid to ask which PR firms a publicist has worked for before their current position. Publicists like to move between industries and firms to get a better understanding of the media landscape as a whole and many transitional jobs before their current position isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Knowing where your publicist has worked previously can help you get an idea of what fields they’re comfortable working in and which ones may be new territory.

5. Radio/TV/Internet Experience?

Depending on the kind of press you’re looking to achieve for your brand, you should see what kind of successful placements your potential publicist has gotten for clients on various entertainment mediums in the past. If you’re looking to engage in a primarily digital press campaign, then you should ask for digital “press clippings” to verify a publicist’s success rates.

Every press medium is different, so don’t be afraid to ask for press clippings from all media channels you’re looking to promote through.

6. Can I See Your Client List?

While confidentiality agreements may prevent a publicist from disclosing some of his or her current clients, you should always ask to see a list of previous clients the publicist has worked with to verify their credibility.

7. What Successful Placements Have You Gotten?

Although a publicist’s past placements are no guarantee of future success, knowing which press outlets a publicist has had luck with in the past may mean that the publicist knows a journalist or two at that publication and get a “foot in the door.” Good publicists have people they typically call on at the beginning of any press campaign. If a publicist consistently produces quality press releases and stories for their journalist friends, they stand a better chance of getting covered than cold-calling new publications.

8. Previous Client Reviews?

If it’s your first time working with a publicist, it doesn’t hurt to ask their previous clients for unbiased reviews of the publicist’s services. On rare occasions, publicists will put positive quotes from previous clients on their website, but I recommend taking things into your own hands and reaching out to brands that the publicist has helped in the past to see what they thought of the results of their campaign.

9. How Much do You Cost?

The most expensive publicists don’t always produce the best results. Work with a publicity firm who is able to handle a brand of your size, not one who you think can land your story on the front page of the Huffington Post. Inquire about all retainer fees, monthly costs, and even mailing costs before signing on the dotted line. Get a price breakdown of everything your publicist is expensing and their monthly or weekly pay so there aren’t any surprises halfway through a campaign.

Conclusion

While there’s no magic formula to determine how successful a publicity campaign will be, doing your research and knowing what kinds of results your publicist has achieved in the past is often a good indicator of things to come. Trust your gut and remember that publicists can only ever guarantee their work ethic, not front-page stories.

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