Hold the Presses: When to Wait on Investing in a Public Relations Program

Public relations is an undeniably valuable tool for any business. For a start-up, the idea of seeing the company’s name in lights is appealing, and even for well-established businesses, public relations provides an opportunity to influence their audiences. But despite the value of PR, it’s not always the best strategy or investment. Some companies just aren’t ready to embark on a PR partnership, especially in the healthcare industry – a heavily regulated industry that can be difficult enough to navigate without adding public relations into the mix. Before devoting resources to a public relations program, there are three questions that every business should ask itself.

Do you know who you are?

The backbone to any public relations program isn’t the team working hard for you at the PR agency – it’s your company. We’re trying to disseminate your messaging, your brand, your expertise, so if that’s still a work in progress, you may want to hold off on hiring an agency. Getting into key publications does not benefit your business if the messaging is going to change within the next month. Is a company rebrand going to mean putting the brakes on media outreach for a month or two? Wait to hire an agency until after the unveiling. Unfortunately, reporters don’t care about that new color scheme.

You’ll also want to be cognizant of any upcoming changes in company leadership. We’ll be relying on your executives to speak to reporters, and we want that coverage to lead directly back to your company, not wherever that person landed after leaving your employment.

Can you prove what you do?

When it comes to healthcare (and most B2B business for that matter), decision makers want evidence that the solution can deliver on its claims. The same goes for reporters when they’re determining if a source is a good fit for their story – especially for trade publications, an important piece of any successful B2B PR strategy. Case studies, white papers and customer testimonials are all powerful tools in proving the value of your company’s product or service.

Customers who are willing to speak directly to media on your behalf are also valuable, as a third, neutral party touting your benefits is much more credible to the audience than a company spokesperson delivering the same information. Engaging in partnerships with trusted organizations is another key way to gain credibility with your target audience. For example, a company offering a heart monitoring tool could partner with the American Heart Association, a trusted resource for those with heart issues.

No matter how amazing your solution is, reporters need evidence to sort through the myriad of options on the market. If you can’t back up your claims (yet), focus energy on building up these proof points before investing in public relations.

Are you ready for the commitment?

When it comes to your PR program, we at the agency will handle the heavy lifting: coming up with creative pitch angles, pitching the media, writing press releases and contributed articles, and strategizing. But public relations is truly a partnership – we can only take the program so far on our own. Beyond the foundational elements we’ve already covered, we’ll need access to your executive leadership and other subject matter experts to offer to media on various topics. Most of these opportunities are time sensitive, meaning that if your team isn’t ready to go as they arise, the opportunity could be lost. This could also hurt your chances to work with that reporter in the future.

We’ll also need buy-in and support from your executive team. If they don’t perceive its value, the PR program is bound to fail.

Partnering with a PR agency is a valuable and worthwhile investment, but a winning program is dependent on these key elements. So, when is the right time to hire a PR agency? If you have all of these resources and are ready to get some widespread attention for your business, then public relations is the right investment for you. Still not sure? Contact SHIFT to see if now is the right time for you to invest in a public relations program.

Jessica Crawford
Senior Account Executive


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