Hiring A PR Firm

Why do PR? Emerging or growing brands often ask should I hire in-house or use a PR agency?

They’re asking themselves this question against a wild backdrop and volatile marketplace. But even during corrections, thousands of businesses are finding their footing and growing. It truly is the wild, wild, west in right now. The reason executives are asking themselves this question is because regardless of lay-offs and investment size, what both these businesses also have in common are some enormous plans that require PR and marketing.

Many companies have concerns about hiring agencies, they worry about finding the right PR agency, they worry about disclosure to people outside the company; they worry about failure. Those are legitimate concerns, many of those same concerns can be an issue with employees, but with an agency, they can be addressed with strategic questions and planning, and taking a little time to get to know your potential pr agency. And the good news is that the best agencies seem to know one another. If you find a great marketing agency or a great branding agency, chances are, they know a PR firm they like and trust.

In-House PR Advantages


If you like having someone to bounce ideas off on a whim, in-house PR teams offer that flexibility more than PR agencies. PR agencies are typically a little more formal about meetings and goal-setting.

Cross-Departmental Integration

As companies and brands grow, it’s often great to have someone in-house who formalizes internal communications and ensures other departments are considering PR implications.

Agency Management

If you’re managing multiple agencies, like a marketing agency and a public relations agency, having an in-house point person is a great advantage. Agencies will often work together, but someone needs to ensure the brand’s objectives are always at the forefront.

But what are the practical business reasons for hiring an agency over an in-house team for brands?


A single hire’s salary can cost you more than an agency, and that single hire, because they are human, has limitations. Agencies specialize in providing you with the team of specialists you need when you need them. Add this to the fact that you won’t be paying benefits, payroll taxes, and health insurance, and it adds up to savings for both big brands and startups.

Think about it, in addition to your CMO and/or a Communications Officer, who will each need a manager and team, including a media relations specialist, a content writer, a social media manager, a graphic designer, and a multitude of marketing and listening tools which can all easily add up to $400,000 or more, plus benefits.

Plus, if something dramatic happens, it’s also usually less expensive to separate from an agency. Many PR agencies, including us, have a separation agreement in the contract that spells out the process if something radically changes, so it’s a reasonably straightforward process that brings peace of mind to executives in this volatile time.

The IRS Sees PR Agencies As an Expense

Agencies streamline payroll AND they are also a straight business expense.  Talk to your CPA about what makes the most sense for your business.

PR Agency Superpower: Scaleability

Think of your agency as your expansion team. In addition to receiving top-notch strategy and planning, you’ll also have access to team members who are in the thick of it and can give a point of view from the front lines too. When you have a team of people, it’s easier to tap into insights and trends that you might otherwise miss. But it’s also important to note that when you hire a cannabis PR firm or a cannabis marketing firm you’ll get a team of professionals who can more easily scale up during launches or big campaigns.

Even if you do decide to take certain elements in-house, your agency continues to serve you with perspective and resources that support your in-house team. For example, many brands want a PR expert in-house for a multitude of reasons, especially corporate communications and investor relations. But your PR executive still needs a team to help execute, especially in the area of media relations. Few in-house communications executives are actively pitching and engaging with journalists as often as our team is, our media relations team is a top-notch time saver for in-house PR teams.

Seeing the Forest Through The Trees

It’s easy to lose perspective when there’s a lot going on. An agency can provide additional listening and strategy insights you might not have considered. Having a team that has your back and isn’t bogged down in your office politics can really keep things moving along.

In-house team members tend to be front-line advocates internally. And that’s a really important role, especially if you’re trying to build a culture as many brands are. But those day-to-day tasks, meetings, and internal cajoling tend to make consistent outward-looking perspectives difficult. Use your agency to bring you a consistent overall vision of the marketplace and strategies that will set you apart for the long run. Look for agencies with whom you can have open and collaborative dialogue to get the most out of your agency.

Get to Work Fast!

The right agency can get to work much faster than onboarding an employee.  Agencies have a client on-boarding process that will be systematic and strategic because they want to get to work too. You won’t spend your time showing someone where the coffee maker is, you’ll spend your time reviewing strategy and goals.

Access To The Latest Technology & Tools

You pay a fair share for platforms and services that are critical to your business. So do agencies. We have top-notch monitoring, analytics, and communications platforms – you get access to those without adding those non-critical operating costs to your bottom line.

What Does PR Do?

There are more ways than ever for brands to communicate directly with prospective customers, investors, and stakeholders. Along with traditional marketing platforms like TV, radio, print, and billboard advertising, alternative methods such as social media and YouTube give companies even more ways to tell their story to their audience. Also, new data tools let you target that message with a level of precision that would have been unthinkable in the past.

And yet, there are still limits to what traditional advertising, and even social media can accomplish. Being so exposed to the constant deluge of marketing and advertising around them has made many consumers skeptical of most brands. One study from Ragan found that 86 percent of TV viewers skip or ignore ads, 44 percent of direct mail is never opened, and 91 percent of email users had unsubscribed from a company email list that they had initially opted into.

What’s more, consumers are becoming much more selective about which brands they support, and are increasingly shifting toward brands that are more involved in political or social causes. Unlike in the past, new research shows that consumers want brands to get involved in social issues. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that 67 percent of employees expect their employers to take a stand on issues that employees care about.

Edelman also found that 71 percent of employees believe their CEO should respond to social and political challenges. This follows trends among the public, as 76 percent of everyone surveyed by Edelman said that CEOs should take a leading role in addressing society’s problems instead of waiting for governments to act.

However, while more people are expecting businesses to get involved in political causes, skepticism remains about many brands’ intentions. This is especially true when it comes to younger audiences, a core demographic for many brands. A 2018 report from the research agency MediaCom found that 37 percent of teens age 16-19 were skeptical of the claims brands made about the causes they support, and 69 percent of teens said they believe brands overstate their support for charitable or social causes.


How PR Can Help You Reach Even More People

How can brands counter this entrenched skepticism to persuade new and existing customers? One tool you may not have considered is public relations. With so many more ways for brands to spread their own message to consumers, many companies have neglected the value of PR. But if building trust authentically is what you’re after, then you can’t ignore what a well-crafted PR campaign offers.

If marketing and advertising are the tools brands use to tell their story, PR is the art of getting others to tell that story for you. While it may seem counterintuitive for brands to put their faith in having other people tell their story, there are benefits from good PR that can’t be matched by marketing and advertising.

First and foremost, we’ve already noted how consumers have become increasingly distrustful of the messages they get directly from brands. PR circumvents that issue by having a third party mediate your message. There’s an element of faith involved here, but consumers are more likely to trust your message if it comes from a brand they already trust.


How Can I Be Sure That PR Works?

There’s already plenty of data to back up these claims. The Content Marketing Institute found that 70 percent of consumers prefer to get information on a company from articles as opposed to ads. This is even more true among businesses; CMI also found that 80 percent of business decision-makers prefer to learn about a company from articles instead of ads. Lastly, HubSpot found that Millennials are 247 percent more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media than by traditional advertising.

Brands who take advantage of what PR can do have an advantage over those who ignore these potential benefits. Getting articles about your company into trustworthy publications will generate more engagement and goodwill than even the strongest, most effective ad campaign. For brands that are purpose-driven, this kind of PR is priceless.

Frankly, more brands should be promoting themselves as values-based and purpose-driven. It’s a good business strategy; the MediaCom report we mentioned above found that 54 percent of the teens surveyed said they had bought from or intentionally avoided specific brands because of their ethics and values. MediaCom also found that 63 percent of teens said they were more likely to buy from a brand that supported causes or charities that the teens cared about. But consumers hold brands to high standards, so it’s important that companies back up their words with concrete actions and policies.

This is another area where an experienced, innovative PR team can help in ways most marketing teams can’t. A PR campaign will help you shape the narrative around your company, its mission, and its goals. Furthermore, a PR firm can help your brand solidify its position and clear up any misconceptions by putting the right information where your audience will see it.

How Avaans PR Can Help

Avaans Media has a strong track record of helping brands tell their story in an interesting, creative way. Take our work for a hemp-based wellness brand. We had our work cut out for us with this campaign, as we had to establish the validity of hemp-based products in the consumer packaged-goods space despite skepticism from many prospective customers. But by harnessing our media contacts and crafting a campaign across a range of business, science, and lifestyle publications, we were able to place more than 200 stories about our client over a period of three years, averaging five stories every month.

Ready to find out what PR can do for you? Contact us here. 


These are 5 quick branding tips for emerging industries or hyper-growth brands.

I’m super amp’d in this Podcast, it’s obvious I had my coffee this morning.I had the pleasure of joining Debra Eckerling on her Guided Goals podcast.

It’s quick, it’s high-energy and everyone’s hair looks elegantly aggressive. Join us.

P.S.: Like this? Subscribe to the Debra’s podcast because she’s got some great guests on tap!

The Communication Strategy Everyone Will Thank You For.

We’re inundated with messages every day. As communicators, it’s up to us to have  some empathy for our audience, whether that audience is the press, an employee, a customer, or an investor.

Yet, this single communications strategy I’m about to share with you is so simple, so basic, you’ll wonder why you’re not doing it already.

Before we go any further, let me ask you, which would you rather be:

A product or a movement
A cause or a movement?
An idea or a movement?

If you don’t care, I’ll save you-you can stop reading right now.
If you want to be a movement, it’s time to re-frame your thinking.
If you’re going to have a movement that matters, you’re going to need people to get on your side.
Not Twitter accounts, not Instagram followers, not Facebook likes.
These are vanity metrics that provide little insight into the passion and interest people have in your brand, product, or personality.

Are You Really Ready?

If you’re ready, you’ll re-frame your thinking.
If you re-frame your thinking, it will change everything.

So get ready…
The world is crowded now with communicators, marketers, messengers, and “me, me, me.”
Some days it’s soul-sucking.
It’s why everyone who uses social networking says brands ruin everything.
And yet…people WANT to receive messages, they just want messages tailored to them.
One of the reasons digital marketing is so powerful is that it creates a give and take in the relationship.
It provides an opportunity for the customer, the reader to think about their favorite subject for a moment: them.
But here’s the rub:
It takes strategy, focus and creativity to create content that your consumer wants to see.

So, please.
As you review your communication goals and communication strategy, stop for one moment and think about the reader, whether they’re a customer, a client, an investor, or an internal employee.
Make it about them.
That single phrase is the one thing so many brand communicators ignore.
Why? Because it takes serious work to “Make it about them.”
It means getting serious about audience identification.
It means getting serious about your brand, it’s voice and how it relates to the audience.
It means diving in on messaging and strategic choices in advertising.
It means actually creating a relationship and even (GASP) an in-person relationship with your customer or client.
It means, communication and branding for the long haul,  not some flash-in-the-pan-make-it-go-viral-I-need-some-vanity-numbers-now kind of campaign.

And while we’re thinking about it, let’s consider language and what it says about our strategy.
If you’re saying you’ll “use influencers,” do you think you’re thinking about it from the “All About Them” standpoint?
If you’re talking about how you’ll “promote”  your message, event, or idea, does that sound like you’re getting ready to make it interesting to others?
If you’re talking to a PR agency, a strategist or a social media consultant who is using words like “promote” and “use” you really must ask yourself if you’ll have an opportunity for a customer relationship.

I still see and hear this language every day on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, everywhere.
It’s gotten to where my eyes glaze over.
Guess what?  So does everyone else’s.

Let’s step it up, together.
We can do this.
We can make what you have to say interesting and relevant to the right people at the right time.

Now What?

Here’s my communication strategy challenge to you.
Go check your last 10 social posts.
See how many times you used the words “we, us, or I.”

How much of your content was about the consumer?
How much of your content was strategically shared to reinforce or create relationships?
Is there anything there that would make someone curious?
Is there anything at ALL that makes people feel ANYTHING?

How do YOU make people feel?
If you make them feel ANYTHING you’re miles ahead.
If you make them feel stronger, smarter, special, you’re really hitting on something.
If you made them terrified, scared, outraged, you’re really hitting on something.

People rarely forget how you made them feel.
But YOU’RE utterly forgettable when you make them feel nothing.
Digital branding and marketing is a long game, with peaks at appropriate times.
But always it surrounds emotion.

Regardless of the movement you’re trying to start, start with the idea that “you” are not necessarily interesting.
What’s interesting to people is what they do with “you.”
How you make them laugh or think.
How you make their lives easier, better, or richer.

Here’s another reason to re-frame your thinking: it takes discipline and thought to create content that makes people pause.
That’s why so few marketers do it.
So while everyone else is “zigging” go ahead and “zag.” and watch how it changes the way people respond to your brand or product.

That is all.

When was the last time you negotiated for a website, advertising, public relations, marketing or other branding work?

Chances are, you took that first quote from an agency and thought “I bet I can get this down at least 20%.”

Maybe you can. Here’s why that attitude is costing you real dollars.

Imagine you’re buying a computer, you evaluate the specs and then begin negotiating. You may or may not get a better price, but one thing is certain, you will be getting the exact same product as every other person who buys it. You can actually look at a chart and evaluate it against competitive products. We’ll come back to the computers in a second…

Unlike other products which are fairly straightforward and essentially the same for everyone who buys them, creative work is individual and unique every time.
No two creative products are ever alike.
There may be similarities. But they can’t be compared.
And even if you COULD compare one piece of creative work against another, you can’t suggest that piece of work would be as successful for you as it was for someone else.
There are too many variables.
And every bit of creative work that amounts to anything takes energy, passion and several other attributes that can’t be measured on a spreadsheet.

Why is this important?

Creative products require emotional sensitivity.
It’s this sensitivity that makes creatives able to assess what may or may not work for your situation.
The more highly tuned the sensitivity, the more highly tuned the solution.
The more highly tuned the creative, the more sensitive they probably are.
Creativity on demand is something that requires focus, attention, and most importantly, desire.

Creativity requires sensitivity, creativity requires a certain fearlessness. A willingness to fail and to get up and try again. A willingness to put something personal out there to fail or succeed.
There IS toughness to creativity, but it’s dramatically different from boardroom toughness.

Now, muddy these sensitive waters by suggesting that the work isn’t “worth” what they’re proposing.
Imagine if someone told you “I love your work, it’s amazing. But, I just don’t feel like paying you THIS much for it.”
How would YOU feel about doing work for that person?
You might feel…a little less inspired.
You might still DO the work, but probably not with the same spark.
You might show up for the work, and be professional about it, but you’ll stop thinking about the work on your drive home, in the shower, or even at night while you’re sleeping.
It’s not because you’re being passive aggressive, but a light switch has gone off.

No one can pay enough for the light switch to be on and no one can assess the impact of the light switch being turned off.
Again, it doesn’t belong on a spreadsheet.

Back to that computer analogy: imagine you had to pay for the computer based on a percentage of the revenue of the work it produced for you?
We’d all be paying a shockingly high price for our computers, wouldn’t we?
Prices for computers would go UP, not down and we’d all pay different prices.

But let me illustrate my point this way. Understanding that differences in creative work are hard to measure, let’s assume for a moment that this difference in spark costs you 1% of conversions or sales.
What is THAT worth to you?

Now What?

Instead of negotiating on price, here’s how to work with creatives, including PR, branding, advertising, and marketing agencies.
[blockquote author=”— Bill Bernbach, co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach” link=”http://www.sketchthemes.com”]”An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” [/blockquote]

When you’re considering people for creative people and agency work, you should ask to see recent work and you should ask to meet with the person(s) doing the work for your account.
Don’t consider this a meeting to “drive down the price” or “work the angles.” Consider this a meeting to identify if they have the right spark for the project.
You should also ask them what they expect of their own work and how they see themselves fitting into the project.
You should give them some parameters and ask them what they would expect to see from their own work.
And you should determine whether you can have a productive, collaborative relationship with the team.
Can they take feedback? How do they react?
Can they talk about WHY they did what they did and does it resonate with you?
Can they talk to you about WHY this project is so interesting to them?
Ask them to tell you about a project they worked on that was challenging and listen to why it was.
Ask them what they learned from it and how it impacts their work today.
You deserve answers like this and questions like this will provide you with far more insight than a proposal.
Creativity doesn’t belong on a spreadsheet, you’re going to have to go with YOUR gut just a bit.
You’re going to have to understand what YOU really need.
Do you need someone who will take the lead or follow direction? Do you need a collaborator or an expert? Do you need strategy or implementation?

Lots of people will say that there is a lot of money wasted every year on ineffective creative. And that there is some really expensive ineffective creative out there. That is entirely true.

Are there hacks who will take your money and produce no results? Yes.
But they are not as common as you’d think and a little research will flesh them out.
Are there super talented people and agencies who sometimes get it wrong? Yes.
But they’re also usually the ones who come up with another solution, rather than lay down on the “we got it wrong.”

And will a single flash of brilliance on the part of a creative (team) necessarily equate to a flash of brilliance for you? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does experience ALWAYS equate to brilliance? Maybe. Maybe not.
I know, it’s uncomfortable, all these unknowns.
It’s easy to say that creatives have to learn to work in the business world and not be so sensitive.
BUT, if you don’t find a creative who is sensitive and emotionally in tune with your product and your audience, it almost guaranteed you NOT to have flashes of brilliance.

One thing I DO know for sure:
Take care of your creatives and they will take care of you.
Inspire a creative and you’ll often get FAR more than you paid for or way more than the contract stipulates.
Because while creativity on demand is hard, but so is turning it off when inspiration strikes. 
[blockquote author=”— George Lois, co-founder of Lois, Holland, Callaway” link=”http://www.sketchthemes.com”]Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires.[/blockquote]

You should be far more concerned about people who are “too cheap” because it’s hard to produce brilliance when you’re running around like a wild person with hair on fire.
You should be far more concerned with people who aren’t interested in the elegance of their own work.
You should be far more concerned with people who aren’t sensitive enough to talk about WHY something worked and WHY something else didn’t.
There are far more talented, creative people who do quality and occasionally brilliant work than there are hacks.
And those people who do quality work, they value their own creative energy enough to get paid, fairly, for it.
And trust me, when I say “fairly” I’m talking about way above the minimum wage and way lower than an average CEO.
If you want to work with creative professionals (and you do if you want your customer to tune-in), then expect professional and give professional.


Am I saying that you should never negotiate with creatives and agencies?
I’m simply saying that at some point, you’re going to have to decide which people are worth what they’re charging you and when you get to that first invoice, no matter what you’re paying, you’ll want to be sure that the spark is on, ignition is lit.
Wouldn’t you rather influence flame than smoke?

PS: Here’s an old-one but a good-one on this topic: