When to fire your PR consultant
Hiring a public relations consultant can be a whirlwind. You’re romanced by an intriguing proposal, promised the world and you’re enjoying the giddy honeymoon phase of a new business relationship.
And then the bill comes. Or you find a typo in a print ad. Suddenly, they’re not spending any time with you, and not calling when they said they were going to. You’ll start to wonder if it’s you – perhaps you’re just being neurotic, or high-maintenance.
Take off the rose-colored glasses. I’m here to tell you that it’s not you. It’s them. And it may be time to break it off. Here are some red flags that may indicate that he’s just not that into you.
1. There aren’t objectives for the campaign or project. The goals of any public relations campaign need to be clearly defined and articulated before any work starts. Everyone needs to be on the same page and know what exactly is going to be accomplished. Objectives should be attainable and measurable. A lack of an objective suggests poor planning and incompetence. Maybe both. If your public relations consultant can’t clearly outline the objective of a project, they won’t be able to execute.
2. The practitioner has questionable ethics. Finding a public relations consultant isn’t just about finding someone who can write a press release, you need someone you can trust. Discussions of strategy can be highly confidential, and you want to be sure you’ve retained someone who won’t exploit vulnerabilities you share. I suggest anyone looking to hire a public relations practitioner familiarize themselves with the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Code of Ethics. A strong public relations practitioner will be transparent, honest and disclose potential conflicts of interest. Make sure the person you hire is of strong character, and who reflects the values of your brand. Anything less sets you up for disappointment and poses a risk for your organization’s perception.
3. The practitioner is submitting lazy work. If you find yourself having to correct grammatical or spelling errors in tactics or rewrite things entirely that come from your consultant or agency, I hope you’re a pro-bono client. Actually, I don’t, because it’s never acceptable, ever, for a professional communicator to send lazy or inaccurate work to a client. Even drafts should be superior. That’s not to say that everything always has to be perfect – especially on a tight deadline – but it’s fairly easy to tell when something was thrown together, and if it’s a pattern, it’s a problem. If you’re getting the impression that they don’t care, guess what? They don’t. Find someone who does.
4. Your billing is shady. There are usually three ways to bill for PR work: by the hour, by the project or by a retainer. While the terms of your billing should be outlined in your contract, make sure you’re checking your invoices and that supplemental information like receipts for expenses or time sheets for billable hours are included. If they’re not included, you have every right to ask for them. If there’s an excuse for why they can’t be provided, you should be concerned. Your invoices for public relations services should never be a surprise and you should be getting what you’re paying for.
5. You’re not getting results. Don’t get me wrong, shifting perception takes time and public relations practitioners aren’t magicians who can guarantee a certain outcome, but you should also be getting results from your program and strategy. This is why measurable objectives are so important. What were the deliverables? Are you getting coverage? Is your audience taking the desired action? Are things delivered on time? If the needle isn’t moving after a certain period of time – I usually use a full quarter to properly evaluate a campaign, with exceptions for a crisis – you should consider other options.
Have you ever had to fire a PR consultant? Share your stories in the comments below.
Amanda Kane is a writer and publicist in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Amanda is the principal of Game Face Public Relations, a sports publicity agency that works with professional athletes and their agents to develop winning personal branding strategies. Amanda's work in public relations has been honored with several Cumbre Awards from the New Mexico chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, and in 2009, New Mexico Business Weekly recognized her on their annual 40 Under 40 list. You can follow her on Twitter at @TheMandiKane.
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