The term “public relations” or “publicist” traditionally makes a business owner or C-Level executive wonder one (or all) of three things: Who is this person? What exactly is public relations? And, how could this really benefit by business? Regardless, none of those questions are answered by the propositioning party themselves and if you’re the one in search of representation, you’re going to do a little homework before you sign with someone; typically we outsource the credibility.

Truth is, someone is going to tell you whatever they want you to know about their character and capabilities. Referrals, and word-of-mouth recommendations are really what seals our confidence. And, for the business advice on “when” and “why” to think about representation, we’re going to turn to a trusted source – a coach, mentor, or favorable outlet.

By definition, Public Relations is “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person” or “the state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person.” In other words: Public Relations is how you or your brand ranks among the general public and there are many (many!) facets to the tangled world wide web that is the industry.

If you’re thinking of incorporating public relations practices into your overall marketing strategy, here are three things to consider:

How “lit” is your marketing strategy, really? It’s important that a brand looking to implement traditional PR tactics have a strong, well detailed annual marketing strategy. Things like seasonal events and promotions, past features, and “hard” future goals are great jumping off points for stories or “buzz” – though don’t plan on leaning on those in today’s hyper-competitive editorial market. Before a publicist can give direction, we need to know where you want to go.

What’re the terms you’re willing to commit to? Questions like “how will you measure success” and “what are the definitive goals you’re looking to reach, and why” need to be answered (internally) before the conversation even begins. Because, any good publicist is going to ask – not assume. Also, metrics on past campaigns – both failures and successes; in and out of the traditional PR “scope of work” – are equally important to note. This data will help the publicist better maximize their time and commitment; directing future efforts in the direction of what they know will make your audience jump.

It’s equally important to be realistic about the level of commitment and responsibility you’re willing to take on in the overarching strategy. If one of your goals is to solidify your presence as an industry thought leader, do you actually have the time in your schedule to stand in the spotlight? And, furthermore, what impact will that have on the organization’s profits? If the answer to any of those two things are “I don’t know” or “none at all” — you’ll need to start small and scale as time goes on.

Can you actually afford representation? (Ouch, right?) While well-executed PR efforts should definitely lead to an increase in business, like everything else, there is usually a start-up period where an enterprise can find itself floating a little capital. This “start-up period” traditionally ranges between 30 and 90 days as brand audits, media/press kits, and future goals are established.

This is something most publicists won’t cop up to up-front, and a sure-sign they’re just trying to close the deal, but trust and believe it’s a card you’ll find them playing around that ninety day mark. Don’t waste your resources, and more importantly don’t discount that ninety-day period as a “total loss” – because it’s not. Having the proper strategy in place only works to guarantee a better working relationship between you and your publicist and a successful future ahead.

FOLLOW-UP: I speak a little bit about the typical financial commitments and benefits of outsourcing in my “5 Reasons Why” post, on the blog. You can read it here.

Thinking of diving a little deeper into some of the above? Or, learning the cures to some of the respective pain points? Get in touch – and let’s do coffee (or drinks*).

* Preferred.