How to Choose the Right PR Agency
Many business owners and professionals such as the dermatologists, psychologists, plastic surgeons and internists that KMR represents, often have a hard time when they first seek public relations for their medical practice. They know that to take a business to the next level, they need public relations as a cost-effective way to promote their medical practice. How does one choose a top PR firm? What should a public relations firm show you to prove that they grasp your practice and sub-specialty, understand your audience, and have the media connections to achieve the results you desire? Can they prove they have done so with previous clients in your sector?
What should Public Relations firms show you prior to signing with them?
KMR Communications Founder and CEO, Katherine Rothman, says the first thing a client should look at is the PR firm’s website. “You can search through PR firms on the internet until you are blue in the face, but are the websites you are sifting through showing you anything of value? Or is it all ambiguous talking points about strategy and media outreach peppered with pretty images?
Rothman, who became a pioneer in the field of medical public relations in the mid-90s, explains that many public relations agencies have beautiful sites that are meager in the information category. “A good public relations firm will use its site to give their prospective clients information that better equips them to make an educated decision. From the site, a potential client should be able to gather how long the firm has been in business, what types of clients the firm specializes in, or is the firm a “come one, come all” type. Is it a boutique or a large firm where you will be the small fish in the pond because the company is repping large pharmaceutical companies who can pay three times your retainer fee?”
Many public relations firm’s websites lack information about their former clients or campaign highlights and case studies for clients in your specialty or similar fields. Rothman says this may be a “clue that they don’t know your industry as much as a specialized firm does. Doctors know their specialty is very nuanced, and a firm that isn’t skilled in those complexities is a roadblock to optimal results.
Case Studies and Sample Press Clippings
Once you’ve found a few firms that impressed you with their site, you will most likely fill out contact forms. When you make contact with a representative of a public relations firm, you want to see that they have the experience you need to get results you deserve. The best way for a firm to showcase this for you is through sample press clippings, case studies of former clients and examples of press releases. Many big firms will send a general case study. They may not have vast experience with your specialty whether you are a fitness trainer looking for media placements and reviews, a beauty brand trying to get your product on a “best of” list, or an OBGYN looking for publicity. A specialized public relations agency should be able to provide case studies and media highlights for people within your specialty, giving you confidence that your business is not new territory. This will allow you to see the type of media coverage this firm is capable of achieving for you and the volume of placements you can expect. It will also provide a window into the knowledge the firm has about the stories pertinent to your practice and expertise. The firm should also be able to provide a proposal specifically for you which is an overall outline of the strategy that will be implemented in the first six months of a campaign. This proposal should include examples of target media outlets across radio, television, internet, magazines and newspapers.
Client testimonials are an excellent way to gauge how a public relations firm has performed in the past. Reviews and testimonials show you the support of those who have been represented by that firm. Usually, reviews are found on the google listing for the company, the company’s website, and in case studies showcasing a particular campaign. Client testimonials also give you a chance to see the caliber of clientele the firm has represented. If you have ever coveted a competitor’s press coverage, and that the firm was responsible for it, they might be a wise choice for you, provided they no longer represent the competitor. A firm should not have conflicts of interest among clients.
Press Releases and other materials
You want to get a sense that the firm you are considering knows how to spin your business and expertise into a plethora of angles and topics to entice the media. Writing samples from previous campaigns will also give you a great sense of the range of styles the firm can use for pitching. “Sample releases, expert profiles, and client bios can help you see the understanding this firm has of your specific attributes and needs,” says Rothman. A firm that is trying to earn your trust and your business should be able to provide you with a clear idea of what outlets they are going to pitch you to, and the type of stories that will launch your campaign.
Honesty and Realistic Analysis
If a firm tells you they can get you on “The Doctors” or Dr. Oz within a week of signing the contract, they are very possibly lying to you to get you to sign on the dotted line. While this is a more outlandish claim, prospective clients should be wary of promises that sound too good to be true, especially if the firm making the promises has no proof that they have had similar success before. A firm that is honest with you will talk over the challenges of breaking through to the media to become a well-known expert and promote your business. They will analyze your site and profile with the media to transparently set expectations for the first few months of service. An honest PR firm will give you strategies and help you define your goals based on priority helping you understand what the action plan is if you choose to come on board with them.
Honesty also means finding a baseline in terms of the client’s involvement in the account. “At KMR Communications, we represent everyone from plastic surgeons who are performing surgery most of the day to therapists who have back to back patients scheduled to trainers who are running around New York from gym to gym giving classes. It is important for the firm and the prospective client to be clear about the expert’s availability and what the firm can do to accommodate the client’s schedule without compromising the quality of the results,” says Rothman whose public relations firm has offices in New York and Miami.
Once you’ve identified a public relations firm that has passed the test, you can ask the CEO or business representative to send you a contract. “Typically, the prospective client will give the firm a start date, and the firm will provide them with a contract that includes a fee, a description of services, cancellation policies, and everything else for which both parties are accountable. The client will take the contract, read it over, and respond to the firm that, pending review of the firm’s references, the contract is agreeable. Do not expect a PR contract to include promises or guarantees of specific media outlets or place a number on the amount of media placements that will be obtained. While this may seem strange to those not in the PR world, PR is not like advertising and it is impossible to guarantee the quantity and exact press coverage that will result.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle when hiring a PR agency. A company that does not have references may be subpar. However, clients must remember that references cannot be exhausted, this is why reputable firms will release references after a prospective client has reviewed the contract and given an indication that their signature and start of service is pending only the verification of the references.
About KMR Communications:
KMR Communications is a public relations firm in New York City and Miami, Florida. It was established in 1998 by founder and CEO, Katherine M. Rothman. The agency specializes in medical PR, Beauty PR, Fitness PR, and Lifestyle PR.
Still not sure how to choose a PR agency? Contact our PR firm in NYC to learn more about the importance of public relations to an organization and the type of PR strategy you will need to grow your business and reach your target audience.