MONEY

3 Reasons Not To Hire a Publicist

One PR professional I interviewed couldn't pronounce my company name, or fathom a high-powered woman in finance. Next!
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Prior to launching Lexion Capital, I was told over and over again to hire a PR firm. So I dutifully interviewed two firms.

The first was run by “Richard,” who was referred by a friend. Richard presented me with no guarantees, a one-year contract at $60,000, an inability to remember the name of my firm, and surprising questions that showed he was genuinely befuddled by my combination of gender and industry. Next!

The second referral, “Louise,” was a solo entrepreneur herself. Her non-negotiable contract included a demand for $1,500 per-segment “royalties” for three years beyond our six-month contract--meaning that anytime I appeared, was quoted, or had my company featured in any on a network she had placed me on, I was to pay her this “royalty.”

Both Richard and Louise asserted that they could get me one to two press mentions per month--maximum. So, I did what entrepreneurs do. Next to my “CEO” and “Janitor” hats, I hung another one: Marketer.

Here’s why, in the long run, handing PR internally has worked far better for us than hiring an outsider.

Who Can Share Your Story Best?

You started the company, so not only will you accurately pronounce your company name, you can explain the thought and care that went into every square inch of it.

I asked myself, “Could an outsider explain Lexion Capital and our mission-based approach better than I could?” I am extremely passionate about the work I do, and no one can convey that more convincingly than I. In addition, my firm has the attention-grabbing attribute of being highly unique in the finance space.

If, like me, you are motivated by creating change, then you understand that your job is more than a job-;it’s a calling. Do you really need to pay handsomely to have your story filtered through a third party and hope that he or she can get these points across with both accuracy and passion?

Anyone Can Brand Themselves

That might sound like hubris, but it’s increasingly true. The work of getting the word out can be managed internally. With just a computer, you have at your fingertips so many resources that can help create rapid buzz. Head to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, create a YouTube video, write a unique blog--all can become priceless in terms of marketing impact, and all are free or close to it.

Reporters often find me through these resources, and once they do, they become repeat customers. The Rolodex is fading as a crucial “in” for making contacts. Through the internet and social networking, we are more interconnected than ever, and running a business is more and more DIY-friendly.

Treat a Reporter as You Would Want to be Treated

When a reporter does get in touch with me for a quotation, I try to be accurate, responsive and insightful. I am respectful of their time, as their schedules are fraught with deadlines and a relentless 24-7 news cycle. If you position yourself as a helpful and easy-to-reach source, reporters will call on you again and you will generate press mentions pretty much effortlessly.

I initially held out to see what I could accomplish on my own in terms of press and exposure, and it turned out to be an extremely successful move.

Of course, there will likely come a point when you have maxed out your connections and your bandwidth for DIY marketing. Then, consider bringing someone in rather than hiring out. An internal marketer can work closely with you every day--a more reliable and accountable prospect than some fast-talking press rep who gets thousands of dollars, mostly on faith.

An employee can pitch you from the perspective of an insider who cares about your company. For an internal marketing person, you’re not just one account of many--you’re their job. By handling marketing internally, you save money and ensure that your brand’s image is curated by people who understand it firsthand.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Feb 19, 2013

ELLE KAPLAN | Columnist | CEO, Lexion Capital Management

A finance expert and self-made entrepreneur, Elle Kaplan is the CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management, the only 100 percent woman-owned asset management firm in the U.S.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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