So, you’re the next incredible brand on deck and you’re ready to hire a publicist? Read this first:
Know exactly what a publicist does.
A publicist/PR pro is a public relations practitioner. And, public relations is the art of influencing public perception using strategic communication. “PR” is commonly used to describe the practice in general, not the practitioner. If your potential publicist refers to herself/himself as a “PR”, run. It’s the equivalent of Metta World Peace saying he is a basketball. He didn’t say that, by the way.
Side note: Publicists don’t like to be called publishers either, unless in the rare instance he or she actually publishes books too.
A breakdown of a publicist’s tasks include:
Creating exposure: Your publicist should craft or oversee your Electronic Press Kit (EPK). Draft press releases to announce news worthy happenings. Pitch you to media and schedule interviews. Scan the media for new mentions of your brand, negative or positive. Oversee your image and have a good relationship with a fashion stylist. Manage, plan or review your social media activity. Coordinate photo shoots and video shoots. Assist you on the red carpet, but not actually pose for photos with you. Assist with speeches. Plan events and press junkets. Make sure your branding is cohesive.
Brand protection: He or she should conduct media training for your print/radio/TV interviews. Manage a crisis, if one arises. Think Olivia Pope. Or, Judy Smith. Although most PR pros don’t soley specialize in crisis management, they should have a working knowledge to craft an effective plan in case you ever need it.
What’s your budget?
Now, that you understand publicists aren’t hired to put your name on a list at a party, pick up your laundry or babysit your kids… know your BUDGET. Before you go to a car dealership, you have an idea of the amount you want to spend. Do your research before meeting with a publicist to avoid wasting your time, and theirs. If you want to hire a big time agency– who may actually assign a first year account executive to your account– expect to pay at least $10,000 per month as as minimum rate. Some big name publicists with boutique size firms and huge clients are also in this range.
Boutique firms and reputable freelance publicists charge around $5,000 per month on average, although more demanding clients may spend up to $10,000 per month. They may also take on a few smaller budget projects here and there if they believe in the particular brand, especially if the brand is a start-up, rookie, new artist, etc. On the flip side, corporate brands are hiring more and more boutique and freelance pros to ensure account attention and around the clock accessibility.
If a publicist is charging under $900 per month, what are the surrounding factors? Smaller geographical market? Seasonal or start up special? Scaled down services? Inexperience? Ask.
Oh, it’s not uncommon for publicists to ask professional athletes and entertainers to provide game/event tickets. It makes sense for them to observe you in your element. However, being in your element should not be a payment substitution.
Does the publicist have a passion for your field?
Once upon a time a publicist with NFL clients asked me what a first and tenth was. That wasn’t a typo. Someone representing professional football players really asked what a first and tenth was. That’s like a book publicist asking what a book outline is. Or book hotline, to keep it consistent. Anyway, passion breeds research. Financial services & technology publicist, Samantha Savory, studies trends in the financial and tech world with the same intensity level she studies PR trends. Kristen Hopkins, who specializes in non-profit, knows her niche’s trends like the back of her hand.
It’s not unfair to ask for a fashion publicist’s thoughts on Isabel Marant’s spring collection to test their engagement level. Or, ask a sports publicist to pick Ovechkin or Crosby. If I were a musician, I would want my publicist to have a favorable opinion in my genre. Or, understand the complexity of current political issues before running my political campaign. A film publicist shouldn’t be required to have Roeper level movie knowledge, but a Variety subscription shouldn’t sound far fetched. Regardless of the niche, it doesn’t hurt to check out your potential publicist’s tweets. If it’s truly a passion, they can’t help but talk about the subject.
During the first meeting with your potential publicist, 80% of the conversation should be about your brand and its goals. If a publicist gives you a million ideas prior to hearing the brand’s goals, run. If you believe your brand is unique and trendsetting, PR ideas should be tailored. The publicist may have a few initial ideas, but the exciting ideas should be in the proposal you receive after the consultation. Even if the publicist knows all about your brand through research, hearing your goals is the main objective in the first meeting.
Side note: Speaking of the consultation, some publicists charge an hourly fee similar to attorneys, some do not.
Ask to see his or her portfolio.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see their work. Even a newbie should have a portfolio with entries from internships.
Look at the types of brands included, the level of media exposure, writing skills, and the quality of the presentation. If their brand isn’t represented well, why should you trust them with yours?