Choosing a PR Counselor

Friday, August 21, 2009 01:27
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Choosing a PR Counselor

Unfortunately, public relations practitioners inhabit one of the most least understood industries around today. While many financial advisors use public relations counselors to raise the profile of their practice, most would probably say selecting one was one of the tougher business decisions they ever made.  However, by following a few, simple steps, the selection process can be made much easier.

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For those who may be wondering at this point why they should even bother with PR, the most important thing to keep in mind is a good PR program will deliver your practice valuable, objective coverage in media outlets that help drive your business. Even with the explosion of new media outlets, ranging from blogs to social-media networks of various types, nothing delivers the reliable and enviable demographics that come with a top rated and/or influential print or electronic media outlet.

It's been said that while advertising and other forms of marketing may create excitement and interest in the services that you offer, consumers will often seek out additional information before they decide to close the sale. News articles from credible sources go a long way toward answering any lingering questions a potential client may have about an advisor, their philosophy and how they manage their practice.

Another positive benefit of PR is that it can often deliver tangible results in a short period of time. The basic reason for this is public relations is focused on getting professionals quoted in the very news stories for which people pick up a newspaper or magazine or decide to turn on a radio or television broadcast. Because they're choosing to consume the information out of a current need or interest they possess, there's no need to repeat the same core message over and over, as is generally the case. Thus, you will generally see results from a relatively modest investment within four to six months. Finally, it's important to realize that advertising carries different layers of fees that PR does not. You'll pay one fee to the agency who creates your campaign and a second fee to actually buy the space or time that will carry your advertising message. In contrast, the only fees a PR plan generally involves are professional fees to create and execute a program.

When selecting a PR counselor, the most important criteria they should deliver are a solid understanding of your business and how to advance it and rates/program budgets that fit your parameters. While rates can differ dramatically by geographic market, as a rule, it's going to be tough to find a mid to large-size agency that is willing to take a program for less than $5,000 a month. In contrast, you can easily find a solid, independent professional in most cases who can put together a program for as little as half that. The lower price doesn't mean that you're getting someone less qualified; it basically just means that you're not having to contribute to the much higher overhead expenses that a typical agency carries. In this economic climate, it's obviously beneficial to focus on expenses that actually deliver a result and fancy offices and executives with titles will almost always drive up fees, but rarely will drive results.

In your initial conversations with any PR pro, be clear about what you want your program to achieve and give the professional a variety of information detailing how you're different from your competitors and/or any other noteworthy characteristics your practice might possess. It's also good to get into budgetary figures relatively early on so you'll know whether your budget matches a level that the professional you might have in mind is willing to accommodate. Once these items have been covered, the practitioner or agency will likely offer to put together a proposal outlining ideas they have, budgetary figures and other customary items. If, for any reason they don't, ask for one. The proposal and the feeling you develop following a meeting will serve as your best guides as to whether the PR professional or agency really "gets" your practice. From there, it's largely a matter of selecting a PR pro that you belief will be the best fit, not only in terms of tactics, but also in work/management style.

While this process is certainly a bit of work and may seem overwhelming at first, going through it carefully will greatly increase the chance that public relations will pay dividends for a long time to come.

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