Selecting a PR agency for a book launch or ongoing author publicity is like finding a mate through a dating service…You first check it out, see how the chemistry is and then explore where your mutual values intersect. If all is well from that point, you can start dating!
Here some simple steps that will make the process easier.
1. Check credentials:
- Look at website to see if you feel comfortable with their style of presentation— how professional is it?
- Make sure they have done similar work in the past.
- Evaluate how well the agency communicates in its own website.
- If clients are mentioned, you may want to check with them to see if they were satisfied.
- Ask to see samples of clips, reports or other demonstrations of success.
- Look at press releases to see how well they are written.
2. Ask for a proposal:
- Brief the agency on your goals, your desired outcome, your market.
- Ask the agency head to explain in the proposal what media would be approached, what tasks the agency would perform and what creative ideas might enhance media appeal.
- Make sure that the budget for the work is very clear for the money.
- Get a timeline so you can make sure your agency is staying on time with the plan—and that all workload will be performed in the time during with the billing is incurred.
3. Know what you afford before you take up the agency’s time. This may also give you a better idea of what kind of agency fits your budget.
- Don’t select an open-ended hourly option.
- Select a project or month retainer. This should be based on a committed number of hours. (i.e 25 hours @ $100/hour =$2,500/month), which allows you to budget effectively.
- Know what the fee covers and what expenses might also be incurred—and whether these costs are separate.
4. Meet the account people who will do the work.
- Chemistry counts for a lot…get a good intuitive sense if you like the principles.
- Make sure that you have a level of trust in the person doing the work and that they understand your mission and have enthusiasm for your book.
- What you want to avoid is a senior person signing you on, and then handing if off to a very junior staffer with little supervision. Make sure your account person is not a person so junior that his/her inexperience will be a liability.
5. Understand that what you are paying for is time and salesmanship—how effectively can the agency “sell” a reporter on a story.
- 50% – 100% of the initial month will be creating the learning about you and doing the press materials.
- Next step is selecting the right media, creating pitch letters, and/or distributing press releases/media kits (though most media kits today are online).
- Only then, will you begin to see stories placed and interviews lined up.
- It always helps when the agency has contacts in the selected media segment, but today with so many media laid off from print media, new bloggers popping up daily, it is almost impossible to have a core of regular media. So it really comes down to how effective the agency is at “selling” your story to any media—even if they have never spoken to the reporter before.
6. Give your agency all of the materials that can make the effort successful
- This includes the time they need to interview you, get photos, etc.
- Without good input, the output won’t be strong. Help them along!
- If your agency is responsible for advance reviews, make sure they have galleys at least 4 to 5 months before the official launch.
- If you are doing a media/book signing tour, make sure that your publisher has books in a market where the agency is booking your publicity.
- If doing an Amazon.com campaign launch, make sure that your agency coordinates your press release distribution to follow up immediately after the campaign.
7. If you don’t have enough of a story, than don’t expect the agency to sell it!
- Most often a good creative agency can often find a “hook” or “angle” in your story, even if it isn’t obvious.
- However, if you have a message that is just like everyone else, know that it may be very difficult for even a creative agency to come up with a solid angle. Make sure that the agency has a vision for how it will pitch the story before you sign on the dotted line.
8. Review materials and get reports
- Make sure the agency allows you to see all of the press materials before distributing them, but if you edit them, try to leave in the creativity that will appeal to the media.
- Make sure that the agency will give you detailed reports no less than once a month on the progress.
- You should get a Google/Alert to see what is running online and if budget permits, a print clipping service to secure copies of stories that have run in publications.
- Ask your agency to see if they can secure audio and video copies of your interviews and whether this is something that must be paid for, or can be secured at no cost from the media. (This is likely to be a case-by-case basis). You can put these on your website.
9. Be a Conscious Creator and hold a vision for your agency’s success!
- Show your gratitude when they succeed.
- If you need to push them along, do so in a gracious and supportive manner
- Celebrate your mutual successes!
Jackie Lapin has been in the public relations business for more than 30 years. She has served start-up businesses, major corporations, television productions and authors/speakers. Lapin is also the author of best-selling book, The Art of Conscious Creation, How You Can Transform the World, and has recently launched a new division of her company, Conscious Media Relations (www.consciousmediarelations.com), designed to help other authors, speakers and coaches in the to promote and publicize their books and their platform.