Here are some answers from Mary Louise VanNatta to frequently asked questions about the world of public relations.
You’d be surprised how many people ask this question. First, it’s important to understand the difference between the various disciplines that make up the communications industry. If you want a complicated definition of Public Relations (PR), check out what our national association says here: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/PublicRelationsDefined. In simple terms, while you are working every day, our job is to make sure that we are keeping alert to every opportunity to tell your story, to create strategic partnerships for your organization, to gain positive public and media attention and to maximize exposure for you and your organization in a way that increases business, sales, members, funds or whatever goal you have.
If you’re looking for guidance, here is a great article on this subject: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65672. Basically, you don’t need public relations if you have all the business you want and you have strong communication and crisis plan in place.
Every company works differently. It is important to evaluate your potential company by checking out their reputation and talking to key members of the community. Most PR firms, like VPR, will offer a complimentary visit or phone call to briefly discuss what you might need. We do a complimentary 30-minute consultation to review your situation, let you see our portfolio, discuss our credentials and talk about potential strategies.
Many organizations come to us with the same issue: “I spent $5,000 on (fill in the blank) and it didn’t get me any new clients.” It’s surprising that companies will spend thousands of dollars on advertising, logo merchandise, sponsorship or printing and never put a plan together or consult a professional to make sure they are maximizing their investment. A few hundred dollars of advice could potentially save thousands in promotional choices that do not provide a significant return.
VPR works on an hourly basis, monthly retainer or project basis.
Most clients start out hourly and find so much value in the service that they will move to a monthly retainer. The retainer (one predictable fee per month) gives you the flexibility to call for advice, hold regular meetings or conduct special projects without “watching the clock.” It also gives us a chance to work through a plan one piece at a time and provide the support and consistency a comprehensive PR strategy needs.
Some clients, who are looking for assistance with one special event, product launch or a PR issue (such as a management change, crisis, etc.) may choose a one-time project fee that includes a specific set of services and will end at a specific time.
After your initial consultation, we prepare a contract (with all the legal content) that requires our confidentiality and helps us be sure that you provide us accurate information. We abide by a code of ethics and you can check that out here: http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/CodeEnglish/. We have a good track record with clients. Check out some of our recommendations on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/vannattapublicrelations
Unlike advertising, understanding ROI (return on investment) for PR is more difficult. In smaller markets like the mid-valley and Oregon, you may notice that you have better name familiarity, people have mentioned seeing you more in the news or at certain events or your logo becomes more recognizable. You may be getting more “likes” on Facebook, followers on Twitter or might notice a sales increase over time. You might find you are able to focus more on your day-to-day work and worry less about your marketing and promotions when you work with a PR firm. At the end of the day, your ROI is a measurement agreed upon by you and your PR professionals.