Do You and Your Business Need a Publicist?

by Robert Moskowitz on November 21, 2013

When you’re hosting an event, launching a new product, or intentionally calling attention to your business in some other way, it’s tempting to skip paying a publicist to get media coverage. After all, writing a press release isn’t that hard, and hiring an experienced professional can be pricey.

However, unless you have a background in PR, you should consider making the investment: Someone who knows what they’re doing is likely to produce far greater results than you will on your own.

The next time you’re trying to decide whether to enlist help with publicity, ask yourself the following questions — and weigh your answers carefully.

Am I seeking local or major media attention?

If your goal is to bring together a few dozen people from the neighborhood or to place a few articles in community newspapers, go ahead and pursue this type of media coverage on your own.

However, if you are seeking prominent play in major media outlets, from regional TV stations to national print publications, understand that giants like Coca-Cola and Microsoft are in line ahead of you for that kind of recognition. In order to see your name in lights, you’ll need to find the right angle to your story, develop a persuasive pitch, and pursue the right gatekeepers. A savvy publicist can do all of that and more.

Is there enough revenue potential to justify paying a publicist?

When you’re planning a small event or activity that’s going to produce limited revenue, do-it-yourself promotion is called for: You’d be hard-pressed to recoup the cost of a PR professional. But if you’re contemplating an event for hundreds of people that stands to raise tens of thousands of dollars, paying for a professional publicist should factor into your budget — and can help to ensure the event’s success.

Do I know, or can I figure out, how to reach my intended audience?

Working with a paid publicist has some advantages. One of them is that the publicist brings the tools, the training, and the know-how to deliver your message to your target audience.

In order to reach the right people, you need to understand two things: who will naturally be interested in your message and what media they regularly consume. You want to identify the ways in which your intended audience gets news and information and put your message on those channels. For instance, there’s no point in spending time and effort to get your event written up in the local newspaper if the people who you’d like to attend don’t read the paper.

If you have no idea how to craft a compelling message or make sure your intended audience sees it, then do-it-yourself promotion won’t work for you. It’s better to hire a publicist. Often you can pay only for the services you need and get your message out very cost-effectively.

Can I afford the extra costs of professional publicity?

A wedding reception can consist of beer and sandwiches in the backyard or a sit-down dinner at the Ritz-Carlton. If you go for the Ritz, however, you also have to go for all the expensive extras. It’s the same with publicity.

When you decide to plunk down for a paid publicist, you’re also likely to be asked to shell out for professional photography, videography, video editing, web design, graphic design, copywriting, printing, distribution, press kits, and more. When you do the promotional work yourself, however, you can usually cut some of these corners without your audience recognizing the “home-grown” nature of your communications.

Do I have time for this extra work?

For many small-business owners, this is the crucial factor. Even if every other answer says “go,” you’ll have to say “no” when you can’t spare the time for the necessary promotional work. Because tasks that might take you all week could be finished by a paid publicist in an afternoon, paying for PR work may prove highly beneficial.

Am I good at gaining public attention?

If you aren’t good at grabbing attention and bringing people to an event or an opening, then trying to do your own promotional work is likely going to produce disappointing results. You’ll be better off bringing in outside help at whatever level you can afford.