x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Importance of a well-picked partner in public relations

Word of mouth and a great public relations plan work wonders for a small business. But choosing the right PR firm is not an easy task.

Getting the message out: working with the right PR firm is an effective way to raise awareness about a start-up. Philip Cheung / The National
Getting the message out: working with the right PR firm is an effective way to raise awareness about a start-up. Philip Cheung / The National

Word of mouth and a great public relations plan work wonders for a small business.

Over the past couple of years, I have come to learn about many Emirati small businesses through effective PR campaigns on social media platforms, which I probably would not have known about as quickly if they had advertised traditionally in a magazine or on theradio.

Small business owners know that working with the right PR firm is an effective way to raise awareness about a start-up. Moreover, finding and retaining a PR firm can be more cost-effective than spending a chunk of money on a newspaper or magazine advertisement. I also find that my friends and colleagues trust PR endorsements more than advertisements and are more likely to listen to what they have to say.

But choosing the right PR firm is not an easy task. It is a commitment, and you have to make sure that your needs are compatible with what the firm has to offer. After witnessing my small business owner friends go through similar processes, I know that choosing the right PR firm involves small and easy steps that accelerate your decision process.

First, identify your needs and goals. Before you embark on your search you need to answer the following questions: What is your end goal? Who is your target audience? Do you want exposure in social media platforms? How long do you want to work with the PR firm? Once you identify your needs, you will be able to narrow down potential candidates.

Ask for referrals from friends or their friends. This aids you in the search process, especially if your business is in the same field. You can then compare and contrast the agencies you were referred to, and find out which one is the right fit for you. Not only will that save you time, it will also give you information about the firm that may not be available online.

Doing so should not stop you from using the internet, however. Study firms' websites and social media accounts. Read about the types of projects they are handling, and the clients they have helped. It is good to also read client testimonials. If their social media accounts are active, it is a good sign that they are experienced on the digital end and would serve you well and advise you on how to penetrate this platform.

Now that you have collated your list, it is time to contact the potential firms. Collect information about prices, timeline, their expertise and whether they handled similar projects. Ask them to email you a portfolio of work for a client in the same field, if possible. The most important point in this step is to ensure that the firm has dealt with similar clients.

Once you have narrowed the list further to firms that match your goals, budget and timeline, you should set up a meeting. Before then, however, provide them with your website address or information about you and your business. From my experience in dealing with potential media suppliers, treat the meeting as a job interview, and ask the representatives anything that would assist you in your decision. A good PR firm should have excellent connections with different media agencies. You could also ask them to provide you with a rough plan that would show how they would develop your PR campaign.

Finally, it is time to make the final decision. As corny as this may sound, trust your gut feeling. If you did not like the person you met initially, you might be dissatisfied with the firm in the long run. During the interviews which firms stood out? Which representative did you feel was more understanding to your needs?

A good PR firm is one that caters to your needs, as well as helping you develop your business further and take it to the next level. After all, you will be working as a team - and that is why it is vital to properly pick your team members.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati fashion designer and writer based in Abu Dhabi