How Clients Can Maximize Your PR Budget


If you’re wondering how to get the most out of PR firm, this post is for you.

Whether you’re looking for personal PR, a B2B tech PR, or public relations outreach to promote your ecommerce website, hiring the right public relations practitioners to handle your account is always challenging.

Many public relations agencies will say they have the SEO, content marketing, digital PR, and social media marketing skills to handle your account. And some of them do. But just because an agency can provide a service doesn’t mean they will. 

PR agencies represent clients nonexclusively, which means they’re balancing a portfolio of clients. Inevitably, it’s the client with the ability to stick around for the long haul that typically gets the best service.

So, how can clients maximize their PR budget? That’s what this post is all about.

And here’s a hint at the answer: instead of diving in all at once or hiring a team of PR and SEO consultants, it’s critical to prioritize marketing channels sequentially. 

Here to help you ask the right questions and hire the right agency is Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert, hall of fame marketing and customer experience keynote speaker, and author of 6 best-selling books, including Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help, not Hype.

Jay has years of experience creating winning marketing strategies, much of which was spent in agencies. 

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In this post, which is based on an exclusive interview with Jay, we discuss why companies shouldn’t hire a one-stop-shop agency, the important things you need to know and have before hiring, and one major red flag to look out for before you hire a PR agency for your startup.

PR vs. Digital Marketing vs. PPC: Which is Most Important?

As a company, you need to determine the business objectives you want to achieve and ensure you seek the right partner. Jay provided some great explanations to help you match outcomes with the right type of content agency.

So, let’s look at the first question I often see when discussing PR for startups. Is it better to hire a digital marketing agency that can do some PR or to hire a PR agency that can do some digital marketing?

If you want an end-to-end solution, a digital agency may be the best bet.

However, if you accept the premise that public relations is about influencing the public and incentivizing behavior change — which trails belief change — an all-in-one approach probably won’t cut it.

Though there are digital marketing agencies that know digital public relations, there aren’t many digital firms that do it well.

Really, if you want to do both, you need to hire both.

You need to separate these efforts and hire for individual outcomes instead of thinking about PR and digital marketing as two sides of the same coin.

When looking for earned media, you are looking to hire external PR.

When you’re looking for shared media or an owned media strategy, you should be looking to hire a digital marketing consultant or agency.

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You may then be asking: Is it better to hire a PPC firm that does organic or an organic marketing agency that can do PPC?

Not surprisingly, Jay’s response was much the same here.

You don’t want to lose sight of the fact that PPC is a media buy. And organic content is not that.

“Are you looking to achieve your goals by spending money (PPC) or creating content (organic)? Both can get you there, but you have to choose. The idea that organic and paid are very closely related is also misguided,” said Jay.

How to know if an agency is worth the investment?

The questions you could ask an agency before hiring them run the gamut from, “Do you specialize only in PR for startups?” and “Can I see past case studies?” to “What’s your average contract length with a company?” and “Will you be creating a custom strategy for my company?”

While you should ask these questions and more before hiring a PR agency, they don’t all hold the same weight.

I asked Jay to prioritize the top three things startups should look for when hiring a PR agency:

  1. A custom-tailored plan. It is better to have a PR agency that’s not niched down by industry but creates customs solutions than one that will serve you the same paint-by-numbers approach as the last client but knows your industry. 
  2. Sector experience and testimonials from other companies in your industry. Customized solutions and industry experience are ideal.
  3. Experience working with companies at the same stage. In addition to working with a PR agency that understands your industry, it’s also essential to find one that specializes in your company size. 

Context is essential when it comes to other factors like client retention and contract duration.

“Short relationships but a focus on start-ups or scale-ups could mean that they are growing the companies so well that their clients are able to move to the next stage quickly. In that situation, it means that the agency with shorter contracts is actually very effective.”

And when it comes to deal-breakers, Jay mentioned a big one.

You never want to be a PR agency’s smallest client. 

Agency relationships often end because an agency feels like another more prominent agency could serve them better or the client feels like they are getting the B team.

In both examples, there’s a mismatch between the agency’s size and the company’s budget.

What do I need to know to build a successful PR strategy for startups?

To have a successful go-to-market, go-to-media strategy — and a successful relationship with the PR agency you’re going to hire — it’s essential to have a few critical elements of your business dialed in before you hire external PR.

You should have a deep understanding of:

  • Building an online path to purchase.
  • Optimizing each stage in your marketing funnel.
  • Who your ideal customer is. This is the most challenging part for startups. Their insights are often anecdotal based on the gut feelings of the founder, but you need accurate customer data.
  • All the marketing and PR efforts that have happened already. What worked? What didn’t? Why?
  • Your customers’ opinions of your product or service offering, the thought processes of your prospective customers, and your own customer-facing employees’ insights.

If you are doing PR for startups, you might focus on your external efforts, overlooking a part of that last bullet point. 

But Jay pointed out that this is where you set the foundation of your efforts. 

You need to start with that internal marketing and get employee buy-in before you can expect influencers and customers to invest.


Just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to PR for startups, there is no singular answer to “How do I hire a PR agency?

You need to clarify your objectives related to owned, earned, and shared/social media. 

You need to adopt a process for vetting and researching an agency before hiring them. You need to have the data outlined in this post in place to be successful and evaluate PR results.

But Jay also pointed out that companies need to understand how to execute basic PR and marketing tactics before ever enlisting the help of an agency. 

Without this understanding, you are doing yourself a disservice. 

You will always need to rely on a PR agency for your needs.

This is the ideology behind much of what Jay’s team does. They don’t do contracts. They don’t do retainers. They see themselves as counselors, creating a PR strategy that startups and B2B brands can then take and execute on themselves.

“At Convince & Convert, we write a lot of recipes but we don’t cook a lot of meals. What I mean is we create strategic plans and operations plans. We tell startups exactly what to do, but we don’t do it for them. A lot of strategy firms don’t do that.”

Eric Schwartzman and Jay Baer speaking on a panel at the Worldcom PR conference in Memphis, Tennessee.

I’ll leave you with that. But, if you’re wondering how to hire a PR agency or do PR for startups, give this whole episode a listen, subscribe to the podcast, and download my guide on getting press coverage for your startup.

As a digital marketing consultant, I have an extensive background in the world of PR — specifically in PR for startups and B2B brands. 

I take a sequential approach to B2B marketing, looking individually at your owned, shared, earned, and paid media opportunities to create a plan that is aligned with the business outcomes that matter most to you.

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