When it comes to organizations getting the word out, using internal public relations professionals can be quite effective. But how do you know when it is necessary to retain the services of an outside PR firm?
One important step in determining if you should hire an external PR company is to have a goal in mind. Is a brand-new company being launched? Is a PR campaign necessary to win back customers after the rebranding of a new bar or a remodeled store?
Depending on the need, a PR agency might be more helpful because they are experienced in pitching to prominent bloggers and journalists about a new product or service. If it's a construction business looking to hire a PR agency, for example, but the agency has most of its contacts within the restaurant industry, it's not going to be as fruitful.
Determine How External PR Will Function
For a public relations campaign to be as effective as possible, it needs to be expertly integrated with a business' marketing and sales plan. Is the marketing, sales and PR done in-house currently? Will the marketing and sales be done in-house, but the PR work done by an agency? These are some important questions to ask before outsourcing.
If an external PR agency is used, it's wise to ask what types of services they offer and how they'll work with the organization’s staff. For example, if a team at a PR agency is assigned to the business, will there be an individual at the PR agency within that team that serves as a liaison for the business? Otherwise, multiple contacts might lead to confusion.
Lastly, what will be the scope of PR services performed? Will the PR agency exclusively introduce the business' experts to journalists at media outlets? Or will the PR agency work in conjunction with the business' in-house marketing team to collaborate with or create social media posts and mailers, for example?
The Importance of Setting Goals
Whether PR work is done in-house, externally or through a combination, one way to monitor effectiveness is by setting metrics. While goals can be tailored easier within an organization, there are different types of goals that organizations can strive for when having public relations work done externally.
An example goal is how will the organization's reputation be managed. This concerns how the business is perceived by those outside the organization. For example, if a pizza shop recently suffered a rash of crimes or a few customers publicized that meals made them sick, there may be a goal to increase the number of customer visits. This can be accomplished by a PR campaign to educate the public on steps the pizza shop has taken to secure the shop or how better food handling practices are being employed.
This type of goal can be measured by how the public relations staff educates the public on the organization's commitment to improving. Does the agency publish social media posts depicting staff wearing hairnets and gloves while preparing food? Is a recently issued health inspection certificate showing the pizza shop passed inspection posted for visitors to see?
The public relation's efficacy could be measured by an increase in foot traffic or by asking customers if the PR campaign encouraged former customers to stop by again. If customers reported seeing the social media campaign and it led them to give the shop’s food and service another chance, that’s a measurable way to determine if the public relations goal was met.