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5 questions to ask a PR professional before hiring him

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

One of the most popular questions from a company hiring a PR agency is what journalist contacts they have and how deep their relationships are.

While it’s understandable to think this is important, it’s not the right question to ask a PR person. No matter who they know, they’ll only get responses if they pitch their contacts that pique their interest.

This means that it is much more important to find someone who can proactively help you find and respond to newsworthy topics, generate new ideas to position you as an opinion leader and help you create perspectives and quality pieces that outlets would like to publish.

So instead of asking WHO they know, focus on What they know, and ask them these five questions. Each answer will show you what results to expect and whether a particular PR professional is right for your needs.

Related: How to Help Your PR Provider Help You

1. What angle can you suggest for my story?

This is reported by Reuters news agency relevance is the main driver of a great story, so another way to ask this question would be “Why should people care what I say?”

Your piece should be interesting to readers (including the editor or journalist you’re pitching to!) and have a unique perspective that makes it stand out from the crowd. At the very least, the right PR agency should be able to propose broad ideas about your business that can later be adapted to specific publications and will resonate with their readership.

2. What will be the headline?

The headline grabs attention or loses a reader. Research shows that 80% of people read a headline, but only about 20% read beyond that. There’s fierce competition for readers’ attention, so paying extra attention to the headline can make all the difference whether your content gains viral traction or just a few clicks.

When deciding whether or not to work with a PR agency, ask them what the headline of your story will be, and they should be able to produce a few options in a way that grabs your attention and makes you want to keep reading. This also gives you a good idea of ​​what the focus of the story will be and whether it aligns with your business objectives.

While it’s hardly ever helpful to spend a long time coming up with a headline (editors usually want to create their own), it’s a great exercise to filter for the top PR pros who understand both business and journalism.

3. What is the news hook we will hang our story on?

The idea of ​​a “news link” means finding a relevant current event to link your story to. It’s similar to the corner, but it’s more like what your corner will crochet around. For example, a greentech company could link a piece of thought leadership to an upcoming climate summit or the ongoing European energy crisis. A cybersecurity company might tie the launch of a new product to a recent public data breach or ask for government regulation on a trendy technology.

Finding the right “link” for your story helps make it current and relatable. People read the news to have something to talk about with others, so linking your story to an event is the ideal way to get it shared, read and talked about. Many major publications don’t even think about a story without a news link. Be sure to check whether your PR agency is completely absorbed in the relevant news and can offer a way to get you on the agenda in a logical way.

Related: Why You Need a PR Agency and How to Choose One Wisely

4. Which publications will we focus on?

When working with a PR agency, you want to make sure they have experience pitching for the publications relevant to your business.

It’s worth noting that the agency may not pick up a list of tier-1 publications, and that’s not always a bad thing. It’s common to think that you should always aim for the biggest outlets, but that’s not necessarily true. Instead of listening to “only big names,” ask them why they chose each outlet, what media formats they want to target, and who the readers are.

Sometimes opting for more niche publications can increase your reach and give you more influence, increasing your ability to get your story in front of the right people. This is why asking these questions can help you understand whether or not you understand your business objectives and how to engage your target audience.

5. Who will we target and what format will we use?

As a writer whose work has appeared in outlets like Forbes, Fast Company, and other major publications, I receive pitches every day. I only wrote for those magazines as a freelance contributor, but people were always suggesting op-eds to me as if I were an editor with the power to approve or deny publications for the site.

These pitches show me how little media training PR people have because they don’t know the difference between a staff editor, a commissioning editor and a freelance contributor, and the formats they can offer them. I’ve even seen emails like this from people who work with big consulting firms. People with no background in journalism rarely understand how newsrooms work, and it leads to major blunders like this one that can get them stuck in journalists’ mailboxes.

The advice here is to always choose the right editor or reporter to target with your pitch. If it’s a news story, you don’t send it to a commissioning editor, and if it’s an opinion piece, no reporter would be suitable. Study the formats the people in the newsrooms work with and try to offer the most relevant piece so that it has the best chance of being selected and published in the magazine.

Related: The 5 Answers You Need Before Hiring a PR Agency


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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