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Why and How to Hire a Publicist

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Hiring a publicist has many
similarities to finding the love of your life. The journey is often filled with
ecstasy and agony, and whatever the outcome, the trip is one big learning
process.

 

The first step is to decide if you
really need your own publicist. Yes, a publicist, unlike anyone else you work
with in this industry, is yours. A publicist has only one
boss—you—although publicists obviously have to work well and play
nice with all sorts of folks, including editors and marketing people in-house
and all those media people out there in the wide world.

 

To get a quick feel for whether
you need a publicist, answer the following questions Yes or No. Do not debate
any inner meanings or ramifications; answer instinctively.

 

·      Do I know what public relations
really consists of?

·      Do I work well with all members of
my team, asking them without fear what I am entitled to or could have?

·      Do I know about all significant
promotional opportunities?

·      Do I enjoy doing all my own
publicity, promotion, and scheduling?

·      Do I have a PR plan and budget,
and do I stick to it?

·      Do I have the time and human
resources to complete my PR plan?

·      Do I enjoy creating my own
databases, collating and mailing items out to my various target audiences, and
doing the necessary follow-up?

 

If most of your answers are Yes,
you do not need to look for publicist. Keep doing what you’re doing. But if
many of your answers are No, it is time to consider hiring a professional to
help you.

 

Great, you say, but I am not used
to hiring anyone, let alone someone who knows more than I do about a very foggy
subject.

 

First, make an executive decision
to let the professionals educate you. Begin by reading books or articles by
public relations pros if books light your fire. Don’t want to spend time on
that? Well, you can try your favorite search engine, but results are likely to
be overwhelming so here’s what you should do: Call other publishers and ask for
recommendations. Then go online. Visit those publicists’ Web sites; call or
email their clients, and email and talk with promising publicists themselves.

 

What should you learn as you talk
with each?

 

·      The
professional credentials of the chief public relations consultant
<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> in each candidate’s firm, including how many years
they have been in the PR industry. Also ask why they are in this industry.

·      The
way the candidates run their businesses
, including how they advise clients when building a plan and a budget,
how they strategize, how they will work with the other members of your team,
how the company invoices clients, and what success stories they have to tell.

·      The
candidates’ methods of operations.

If they use client contracts, ask to review a template and make sure you
understand the method and timing of payments for goods and services. Ask for
clarification about anything you do not understand and consider having the
contract reviewed by your lawyer. In my view, if the firm has no contract, you
should insist on one. This is the only way you will know what you are being
billed for, when, and why.

·      The
nature of the candidates’ client lists and what each company’s strengths and
weaknesses are.
Ask prospects to
tell you about their best strategies for increasing sales (recognizing that
different ones suit different projects).

·      How
you feel about each candidate.
Ask
yourself if you enjoyed talking with them, if you learned something about PR,
if you instinctively trusted them—or not. You want to end up hiring
someone you like and trust to give you advice that will cost you—let’s be
frank—thousands of dollars. Averages could begin at $500 per month for a
minimum of six months prior to shelf-date and rise to $1,500 per title per
month for the length of the strategic PR plan.

 

Yes, this will take time and
energy. Yes, you may decide in the end to continue on your journey alone. But
you will be fully informed should you ever change your mind and decide you want
a publicist on your side as you travel the road ahead.

 

Jo-Ann Power, president of
Power Promotions, has been vice president of PR and marketing for a nationwide
corporation and PR director of a trade association, and has also freelanced for
national newspapers, magazines, and TV while writing 16 novels for Kensington
and Pocket Books. For more info, visit www.powerontheweb.com.

 

 

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