Hiring a PR Agency

Note: For part 1, Discovering the Power of Public Relations, click here.

Public relations is a business and a world unto itself, and most franchisors should consider outsourcing their publicity efforts when they can afford it. Good agencies have established ongoing relationships with editors of key media and know how to package and present your franchise with story angles they are seeking. They understand which TV, radio, print, and Internet venues have target audiences you need to reach, and they can create special events and activities that will garner live and positive coverage for your franchise.

Unlike what we may think, public relations is a very tough, fiercely competitive business. Successful PR agencies are professional "boiler room magicians," constantly pitching your franchise to hundreds of media people every month through phone calls, letters, PR kits, email blasts, personal visits, trade show events, lunch meetings, etc. To get the media coverage you expect (or want!), they must be smooth, engaging, creative, persistent, convincing, aggressive, and tough in the trenches.

Selecting the agency that's the right partner for you is similar to choosing an ad agency. Provide a Request for a Proposal (RFP) to a minimum of three firms, outlining your requirements and expectations in employing their services. This is particularly important when contracting a PR agency. Monitoring and measuring the success of their recruitment efforts must be understood and agreed upon up front, otherwise your relationship can erode quickly. For me it's quite simple: if PR produces or contributes to additional franchise sales, it works. Building brand, image, and market awareness are certainly great benefits. But for companies seeking aggressive growth, generating additional franchisees is what great public relations is all about.

Contact small and larger franchisors with good press coverage for their advice when considering potential PR agency partners. Focus on those that may be similar to you in size and ask about their experiences, both positive and negative. What factors do they believe are key in selecting the right PR firm?

Should only local PR agencies be considered?

Absolutely not, unless you are interested only in local market coverage. National PR has no geographic boundaries that will limit the performance of your agency. I once found out the hard way, selecting an area-based firm in the belief their local expertise would compensate for their less-impressive track record when compared with an out-of-state agency. And the convenience was great: at a moment's notice their account executive was at our doorstep. Unfortunately, we had to fire the company after nine months. They couldn't deliver the bigger stories in the bigger media!

Preparing your proposal

Your RFP should provide performance requirements for 1) "recruitment PR" that will build more franchise sales, and 2) "retail PR" that will build greater branding and sales at the franchise unit level. Provide agencies with your promotional, sales, and other material that will give them a sense of your business. The sample proposal that follows may help in preparing your RFP.

PR: Sample Request for Proposal

Dear Mr. Mulligan:

Our Domidums Are Fun Factory is currently accepting proposals for public relations services. We are actively seeking a professional team who can develop and launch our new PR campaign this coming January. Our company is a game franchise with 99 locations nationwide. Our national franchise support center is based in Tampa, Florida. Enclosed are samples of materials for both our franchise recruitment program and our stores. Check out our website at www.domidumsforever7.biz. We have also included our FDD and a fact sheet about our company.

All interested firms must respond with your Proposals by December 8 to Groucho Harper, Marketing Director. Your proposal must recognize the following requirements and requests:

  • The fee structure should be based on a retainer plus expenses (please identify what your additional expenses would include).
  • The public relations activities proposed should support our franchise sales efforts, as well as our retail locations and promotions.
  • Please include any franchise experience, client lists, and samples from your firm.
  • Do you have PR experience within our industry? If yes, what results and insights can you share with us?
  • Explain any quantifiable results obtained for franchise or other retail clients as a result of your placements and programs.
  • Include a projected timeline that shows when we should expect to see results once we hire your firm.
  • What is the structure of your firm? How many people are on staff? Who would be the key contact representing our account? What is their experience and role within your organization? What other accounts would this person be handling? Who would be assisting their efforts in working with us?
  • How would you propose to service our account and how much time would be dedicated to us?
  • Why should we choose your firm?
  • What are the two greatest strengths your firm is known for?
  • How do you recommend we measure the success of a PR firm's efforts?
  • What reporting and communication system will you use in working with our staff to ensure a responsive, successful relationship? Please elaborate with specifics.
  • What is one idea you would implement for our company right away?

Thank you for your time in reviewing this request. On December 15, we will contact you concerning your RFP. The two public relations firms we believe can best accommodate our needs will be invited to our Tampa offices to deliver a one-hour presentation to our executive team, which includes our vice presidents of franchise sales and operations. If you should need additional information, please contact me at 800-123-4FUN x77.

Next time: Generating your own press.

This is an excerpt from my Amazon.com best-selling book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." To order copies, click here.

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