Your design business is booming, you’re ready to take things up a notch and you’ve heard that hiring a publicist is the next step. Do you really need one? Is hiring a publicist worth the cost and time to find the right one?
Knowing what you want from a publicist and understanding publicists’ strengths and limitations is key to success. That begins with understanding that publicity is not advertising. “Working with a publicist gives you a great opportunity to solidify your credibility in any space. Garnering press is not advertising, it’s earned media. It proves that your brand is noteworthy and newsworthy,” Grace Topalian, PR maven with Los Angeles-based PR Machine. But before you jump in headfirst, there are factors to consider.
Questions to ask
Whether you’re hiring a solo publicist or full-service public relations firm, there are some key questions to ask in your initial discussions:
- What kind of metrics do you track? How do you report them? How frequently do you report them?
- Who are your other clients? (Sometimes this is obvious; sometimes it’s not.)
- How often do your clients work together? This is important, for example, if a publicist is representing brands and individuals that may be a good fit for joint efforts.
- What is your experience? Do you have a background in another industry? The answer to that second question can be a pro or con depending upon what you want. There is such a thing as being “too industry” and there can be a benefit to having an outsider’s perspective, especially if you want to be in a consumer-facing space.
- What kind of deliverables do you need from me to do your best job for me? A great publicist has the connections and systems in place to get you great coverage, but they are only as good as the content you give them to work with.
Once you’ve hired a publicist, here are some mistakes to avoid if you want to build the strongest, most fruitful relationship you can.
- Don’t expect publicists to do tasks outside their scope of expertise. Many publicists are being asked to manage social media or write blog posts for clients. For many, that’s outside their area of expertise and not part of their services. And don’t expect a publicist to get you TV gigs when their background is in traditional media like shelter magazines. Writing, digital marketing and television production are different skill sets.
- Don’t assume that your return on investment will match that of a typical hire (e.g., usually you want to make X amount more than what you are paying an employee). Your publicist is not your employee and their value to you can’t be measured the same way. There are too many variables.
Rachel Hosseini, celebrity publicist at PR Machine, put it perfectly: “Publicity is ultimately a long-term investment. You are paying for someone’s time to sell you – your brand, your personality, your projects – to the press, so patience is essential. Now, more than ever, there is a bevy of noise to cut through, so you may not get a feature in that big outlet right away. It’s a process of building over time.”
And here are things you can do to make your relationship with a publicist worthwhile:
- Do stay on top of scheduling strategy calls and be active in the pitching process. Ask for feedback when a publisher passes on a project.
- Do photograph and video every project. If you’re in the market for a new photographer or stylist, ask your publicist for recommendations.
- Do rely on your publicist’s editorial connections. Publicists often have extensive experience and relationships with journalists, producers and other media professionals, which can make it easier to get coverage and secure opportunities for you. This can be particularly useful if you’re new to the media landscape or have limited experience with PR.
Courtney Porter is a designer, author, host and media director. She specializes in seamlessly bringing interior designers, architects, furniture manufacturers and showrooms’ physical products and services into the digital world. She is co-author of “Green Interior Design: The Guide to Sustainable High Style” with Lori Dennis. Porter also is a host and producer of design shows. You may have caught her on “Behind the Bar,” interviewing your favorite celebrity designers or sharing her favorite decor finds on the live sales network Lit Live.