Gini Dietrich

Hiring a PR Firm: There is a Time Investment Required

By: Gini Dietrich | September 16, 2013 | 

Hiring a PR Firm- There is a Time Investment Required

By Gini Dietrich

In the past week I have been asked the same question four different times during interviews.

This question has never come up before and I find it strange four different people have asked it of me in just the last seven days.

It is:

What is the one thing you wish prospects would ask you?

Think about that from your own perspective. You’re in a meeting with a prospect and they’re getting ready to sign on the dotted line. What is the one thing you wish they’d asked?

For us, I’m always surprised how most prospects do no research about who we are or what we do. It amazes me anyone would hire a professional services firm and not investigate them in the least.

Time vs. Cash

But that’s not the question I wish they’d ask. The question I wish they’d ask is how much time they’re going to have to invest, along with the cold, hard cash, to have a successful marketing communications program.

You see, it’s part of our messaging and education with a brand, new client, but many don’t fully grasp the time investment as intense at it is until they’re in the middle of it. And then they wonder why they’ve hired anyone at all when it takes as much of their time as it does.

Take, for instance, a current client example. The business has been around for four years and it’s on a fast trajectory…already surpassing the $10 million mark.

They  are going through a rebrand and the CEO and CFO are both intimately involved. In the past month, my team and their web firm have been on the phone with them daily. And, once a week, we’ve spent two hours or more in person with them.

The executives of this fast-growing, professional services firm are spending no less than eight hours a week in meetings with us, not to mention their review time of the new messaging, website, collateral, and other marketing materials.

How Much Time?

To be fair, this is an extreme example. It’s not often the executives are intimately involved, nor that they spend this much of their own time. And, for most campaigns that are ongoing, it’s not even required of your marketing or communications team to be that involved.

But it does take some involvement and there is a time investment. At the very least, there is a weekly meeting requirement, weekly review of materials time, and participation in interviews, events, social media, writing, and more.

If you want the relationship with your PR firm to go well, someone on your team needs to devote a minimum of 10 hours a week. If there is a lot going on – like there is with the client rebrand we’re doing – you could commit upwards of 20 hours a week.

The idea is not that you hire a firm and they go away and make you shine without your involvement. Rather, you hire them to help you accomplish more than you could on your own.

If you think of your PR firm as an extension of your team – and involve them just like you would a member of your team – the success will be unlimited.

A modified version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness Experts column. 

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This makes a lot of sense. I’ve made it a point to explain upfront to consulting clients that I need *them* to spend a lot of time both with me and among themselves (for co-founders) discussing and reviewing ideas and plans and messages. Thanks for spelling this out!

    • Unmana I think most CEO’s and Biz Owners think they don’t have to do this because they have the money to have the ‘problem’ handled by others. Reminds me of the Celebrity who hires the lawyer or publicist and the checkbook is open so their problems should go away. But they never do.

    • Unmana It’s a pretty common thing…we hire experts so we don’t have to do the work. But for the expert to be successful, they need inside your brain!

      • ginidietrich Yes. Fortunately, the best clients get this!

  • Score? I’m first? Because I totally get what you’re saying. Once the dotted line is signed, it seems most clients expect miracles. And, you know what? It’s not a one-way street; we don’t do miracles without help and communication and information and a lot of give and take. It stuns and frustrates me and then I wonder about the expectation.

    • Soulati | Hybrid PR ooh you are a hybrid now! So you use a combo of gasoline and battery or are you a newfangled hydrogen fuel cell with backup natural gas engine version?

      • Howie Goldfarb Soulati | Hybrid PR I’m a X over from traditional fuel cells to battery pack rocket engines that blast off into space. #That.Is.All.

      • I just stopped by; nice digs, but you’re missing something.

    • Soulati | Hybrid PR Um, I think Unmana was first. I have to go watch our video. I’m scared.

  • Great points!  I have been there on the other end several times( several consulting firms) and my job mandate had always been to allocate as much quality time, cooperation and  resources as the consulting firms had required.  Makes all the sense and is a must if a company desires optimal results.

    • LSSocialEngage I like that job mandate!

      • ginidietrich Me too! And at the end of the day it gave me some control, input and say over the final models, tools and deliverables that I would be using on a day to day basis. So really it’s a win-win situation.

  • I love this because much of this you and I have discussed before and I have blogged from the brand side for Shonali about 3 times interviewing and hiring PR Pros for the same client and all failed for various reasons. They never googled my client to see what we had done so far in media relations. None were honest about time effort or cost. So when the results didn’t happen in 3 months as they had claimed we would see some, my client decided to move on.
    On the flipside every few months I have to reset expectations for clients when they start pushing for more than they are paying for. And I have to explain if they pay me for an hour a day to cover posting and community managing Twitter and Facebook, responding to emails and giving some advice…..what they will get for that. And then if they want to pay me more they can. 
    I also recommend believe what they read on most PR, Marketing, Advertising, or Social media Trade Publications/Blogs without vetting through me because too often they get told a false reality. Often I get asked ‘Why do they say these things?’ and my response is always ‘Because most businesses aren’t smart enough to know better or don’t have an neutral adviser like you do’

    • Howie Goldfarb AND because many professionals believe what they say. It’s not like they set out to misinform. They just don’t know any other way to do it.

  • This is a great advice not just for hiring and working with a PR firm, but for the success of any project. My best projects have been those where the execs are intimately involved and feel a real stake in the process and outcome.
    Also, very smart of you guys to continue to press this theme on the blog

    • RobBiesenbach there is that famous line from that famous song
      It was a huge hit on MTV

      • Howie Goldfarb RobBiesenbach Dude, it should be “cows” looking at your avatar; or is that a deer? 
        Not YOU, Rob; I can see your handsome mug just fine.

      • Howie Goldfarb RobBiesenbach HAHAHA my biggest laugh of the day from Howie, of course.

    • RobBiesenbach We’ve started asking prospects how much time they’ve carved out to work with us after we’re hired. I had one guy tell me they didn’t want to hear from us but once a month. I had to stifle a laugh and then very patiently talked him through why that wouldn’t work.

  • susancellura

    This is a good question, and one I never really thought of before. I’ve been thinking about it and how it relates to my clients, both internal and external. And, as many have said in the comments, they tend to go with the flow and expect that I will conjure up a magical solution with not much input from them. I will be sure to start reinforcing expectations for both sides of the table versus just the initial and follow-up agreements. Thanks for the advice!!

    • susancellura I think it’s human nature. We hire experts and expect them to just do their job without our involvement. For some professions (house cleaning, for instance) that works. But not in ours.

  • Excellent advice. I find so often, with any project, that the cost in dollars is given consideration, whilst cost in time is not. As for the big question…I don’t know! I am going to ponder that one today.

    • RebeccaTodd Come back after you’ve pondered!

  • There is a perception issue. I think a lot of folks want their consultant or agency to “just handle it” and there are a lot of situations in which that can and does happen.
    I remember in my freelance days telling a client who didn’t seem to like the fact that I would ask question, “You can invest time or you can invest money. But for best results, you’ll invest both.”
    In my view, successful strategy is driven by DATA. It is the client who has it and must keep that door of communication open, because data changes.

    • ClayMorgan Yes…and if the client or prospect won’t give you access to the data that isn’t financial (though some will even share that), a good relationship it does not make.

  • Clients often think that hiring a PR or marketing firm means there will be LESS work on their end — especially if they are hiring one for the first time after doing it themselves for a while. I thought it was funny, this is the second blog this morning to say we need to dedicate 10-hours minimum to something and it’s so very true! Great minds….   
    No matter what you’re trying to do — media outreach, social media management, content marketing — they all really DO have a minimum number of consistent hours that need to go into them in order for them to work. That’s why it’s so frustrating when a client says they have something like $500 per month to spend. Um. You’ll start seeing results next year? LOL 
    The other blog I was reading was this one by Marcus Sheridan:
    Hope you’re feeling better!

    • TaraGeissinger Ah…Marcus and I on the same wave length. That’s awesome!
      BTW, I thought your comment about taking Sean’s talkative kid and tripling it was hilarious!

      • ginidietrich Ha! I normally don’t throw the “triplet card” out there, but his post came at a time when my house was really, really non-stop noisy. 🙂 And yeah, being on the same wavelength as the Sales Lion is something I’d take any day!

  • Great reality check and comments from the PR/marketing tribe. In an ideal world, companies and prospects would hit the bookmark button and join in on the discussion.

  • theanswerguy

    FANTASTIC point. I tell prospective clients this all the time, in as many different ways as I can think of, and … it’s hard to get them to ‘get it’; there are simply things that our clients know more about than we do and if we can’t use them as a source for our work then the quality of that work for which they’re paying us will suffer

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