For today’s installment of Building Your Business, we speak to Erin Cullerton, Hon. AIA SF, of Design Agency Co. Cullerton’s firm works with clients in the fields of design, architecture and culture, providing them with expertise in media relations, brand identity and strategic marketing and communications and more. Previously, she worked as a journalist, focusing on art and design and consequently brings a unique body of knowledge to the table. We’re delighted that she’s shared her wisdom with us.
What are the advantages of working with a PR professional?
The real advantage is that you have an expert in your court. Someone who understands the media landscape and who can guide you toward making better decisions for your firm/brand. A good publicist will know which publications will be interested in your work—and which won’t. This cuts out a tremendous amount of research and guesswork. Publicists also know the rules of the game. They can guide you away from making classic first-timer mistakes, such as pitching two publications simultaneously or sending the wrong materials to an editor. With a PR professional on your team, you can take comfort in knowing you have a staunch supporter who will field the media calls (and make them) so you can focus on your job.
How do you go about evaluating if someone is the right fit for you? What sort of questions are important to ask?
Like any relationship, it’s important that you jive right from the start. Remember, once you have someone representing you, they are going to be part of the family. You need to make sure that they understand and most importantly “get” your business. If you feel like that connection is missing from the beginning, then it’s likely not the right fit.
I would ask to see their track record of success. Have they worked with firms similar to yours? What have they done for those firms? How successful have they been at navigating the media waters for their other clients or colleagues that you know?
What are some of the mistakes/unrealistic expectations people have when starting out with a PR professional?
Everyone assumes that they will get the best media coverage of their lives overnight. Brace yourselves, because the best and most well-deserved coverage often takes time. A significant amount of strategy, planning and execution goes into thoughtful PR. Furthermore, you want your publicist to get to know you and your brand before she or he jumps into the waters. The best approach is a slow and thoughtful one that takes all aspects of the brand into consideration before execution.
It’s also important to know your brand. Where you think you should be getting press is not necessarily going to be right for you, or for that publication. Listen to your publicist when she or he tells you to take a different route so as to not squander your valuable resources. They are much more familiar with the rules of the game, and you should trust them.
What can you expect from the partnership?
A good partnership means you found someone you can trust as well as someone you can lean on for media support. Furthermore, you should expect someone who will be direct and honest about what is going to work for your brand and what isn’t.
Should you work with a separate social media agency?
It depends. More and more PR firms are becoming experts at social media and they can and want to do this for their clients. After all, it’s an extension of what they are already doing and often makes the most sense. If you have too many moving parts, the messaging can get confused or, worse, clunky. Ultimately, though, this is a brand-size question. The larger the firm or brand, the more assistance you will likely need. If you are a small firm with limited projects to promote, you can rely on one good PR firm to do it all for you.
How do you measure success?
Coverage, coverage, coverage. Additionally, you want to feel like your publicist is making suggestions for additional exposure beyond straight media coverage. Speaking engagements, book contracts, writing opportunities, such as blogs and op-eds, are all part of the larger exposure story. And, needless to say, all of these opportunities will increase the awareness of your work and hopefully land you your next job.