Prospective clients often ask what they should consider when selecting a Public Relations/Marketing Communications firm.  The answer, or more correctly, answers, can be as varied as a reply to, “How much does a house cost?”  There are so many variables to consider when selecting the right firm to meet your needs. Much like buying a home can be the biggest purchase you ever make, selecting a PR firm can be the biggest business expense you incur.  And “expense” doesn’t always mean dollars. 

When you place your company, product or service in the hands of a PR firm, you are saying you trust that firm to do right by you every step of the way.  Doing right by you means many things: fair rates, timely communications, senior-level experience, a thorough knowledge of your company, product or service, and equally important, complete honesty and integrity.

If you fail to consider any one of these critical qualities in a PR agency, you could lose more than money – you could lose your good reputation.  You can often recover from financial losses with hard work, and the help of time.  But a tainted reputation is often impossible to repair.  Reputation is paramount!

In my 35 years in Public Relations, I’ve come to realize that PR is not something you DO.  Rather, I believe Public Relations are something you HAVE.  And the type of Public Relations you HAVE fall under three simple categories: GOOD, BAD and INDIFFERENT.

GOOD PR is just that.  You have good relationships with your target audience (clients, customers, investors, vendors/suppliers, media, etc.).

BAD PR is just that.  You have bad relationships with your target audience.  BAD PR is not necessarily the worst form of PR.  Why? One can easily argue that some good can be derived from bad PR – take for example, the classic case study of Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the tainted Tylenol crisis.  They were able to respond to a horrible situation and demonstrate that they (and their customers) were victimized. Then they communicated a near-flawless response (that may have saved many lives), and ultimately, made a full recovery from their crisis.  In short, they quickly restored trust in their brand.

I submit that the worst form of PR is INDIFFERENCE.  Why? It means that you are irrelevant.  If you are irrelevant, you are doomed to fail.  If no one cares about you, your product or service, you will not succeed.  It’s that simple. Entrepreneur and Showman P.T. Barnum once said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… NOTHING!”  I submit that without Public Relations, something terrible happens… INDIFFERENCE!

Understand that no amount of advertising will “buy” you brand relevance.  Brand relevance can’t be bought through advertising.  However, brand relevance can be developed over time through Public Relations.  

There are countless “Public Relations Avenues” that lead to Brand Relevance. They include: Community Relations, Customer Service, Crisis Communications, Social Media Engagement, Volunteerism, Integrity, Employee Relations, Investor Relations, Effective Leadership, Respect for All Stakeholders, and many more.  Unfortunately, the “Highway of Failure” is littered with companies that choose to ignore PR.

When looking for a Public Relations firm to represent your brand, be sure to look for firms that have a solid understanding of GOOD, BAD and INDIFFERENT Public Relations.  Look for Integrity balanced with Creativity.  Look for Honesty balanced with Humility.  Look for a team that has your best interest, not their bottom line, at heart.

Unified Strategies Public Relations Network possesses these positive traits.  We have built a world-class team of In-House specialists and Network Agencies who understand what it takes to meet client communications needs.  If companies are looking for a team that has their best interest at heart, take a look at our USPR Network!

Bob Schiers is President and Co-Founder of USPR Network and founder and President of RAS Associates, a full-service PR firm based in the Philadelphia region.