In the case of PR, it involves a completely different way of looking at sales and marketing; and it takes a certain mind-set to deal with journalists, many of whom can be aloof, blunt and bitingly cynical.
So let’s say, for arguments sake, that you are less than happy with your PR agency. For whatever reason, you are not satisfied with the results they have brought you after spending an unspecified amount of money on pursuing a PR campaign for your business.
I’m not here to “talk you off the ledge” and keep the agency on. There may be some very legitimate reasons for your decision to take the axe to the agency. That said, there are also several suspect reasons for such a radical decision and they deserve to be analyzed a little more before making such a choice.
In my opinion, here are the worst reasons to fire your PR agency (oh, and if this in any way describes you, then reconsider your decision and try a little more to work things out – just sayin’):
#1 worst reason to fire a PR agency: I haven’t gotten into the Wall Street Journal yet. For starters, very-very-very few companies ever make it into the Wall Street Journal. It often takes a long time of studying the trending story opportunities and presenting your company as part of a larger macro-trend to be featured in the WSJ (or other major news outlets).
#2 worst reason to fire a PR agency: Three months and nothing. Three months is not a lot of time for a PR agency to really get to know your company in-and-out in order to discover all that’s potentially newsworthy about it. Not that that’s an excuse, but it’s not uncommon for a PR agency to only really see results beginning in months three and four. On a side note, you may consider 1-2 media pick-ups as “nothing” as well, but in reality that’s not bad. Remember, how much media coverage you get is a function Budget x Activities x Collaboration (where Budget is the amount of dollars invested in PR, Activities is how much your company is doing to be newsworthy – think product launches or adding new offices – and Collaboration is how closely you work with the PR agency to gain publicity).
#3 worst reason to fire a PR agency: Publicity didn’t say exactly what I wanted. Just because a media outlet decides to write about you doesn’t mean it’s an endorsement and a glorified advert for your business. The majority of journalists are paid to be thoughtful about what they write, trained to fact-check and proud about giving a thorough examination of a topic. Rarely will journalists sound like cheerleaders; if they did, everybody would suspect them of being paid to shill for a company.
#4 worst reason to fire a PR agency: Costs too much money. Well, it’s hard to argue that point as a reason NOT to fire a PR agency but sometimes it actually is a bad reason. Naturally, a lot depends upon your budget and what the firm is charging. Remember, you are paying for highly skilled PR specialists to do something that is not in everybody’s wheelhouse. It’s not uncommon for PR agencies to charge $5,000 – 10,000 per month to come up with a variety of media-friendly content, discover unexploited news hooks and work the media on your behalf to secure publicity that helps position your brand top-of-mind among your customer base.
#5 worst reason to fire a PR agency: They don’t offer everything. Some PR agencies offer fewer services than others. Boutique firms like these tend to specialize in certain aspects of PR, such as PR that drives outbound lead gen, or crisis communication in the event you find yourself explaining a messy lawsuit or industrial accident. Consider bringing in a similarly specialized firm to complement what your existing PR agency does and see if they can work together to provide you a more complete set of services. This could save you a lot of time and money in the long run, especially if the firm you have is already doing a good job.
#6 worst reason to fire a PR agency: Change of leadership. From time to time, a PR agency may lose a PR professional who decides to go out on his or her own or joins another agency. I may run afoul of some here, but I’m inclined to say you should stay with the agency at least a little longer to see if they can come up with a new liaison who can do as good a job as your past ‘go-to’ PR professional. Again, there’s a cost associated with leaving an agency – even if you move with your past PR liaison – and you at least want to weigh your options carefully before deciding.
At the end of the day, succeeding in PR takes a strong commitment that includes spending time, money and ‘stick-to-itiveness’ on working with your PR agency of choice.
My advice is to not make any rash decisions, work with your agency’s liaison to come up with a plan everybody can be happy with and then keep your head (and heart) in the game!
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer is one of the only agencies in the country specializing in technology, healthcare and energy PR to provide blended performance-based pricing. To contact Dave directly, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.