In my experience, when people look for public relations, or to hire a PR firm, it's to earn media. There is a lot that falls under the public relations umbrella, but media relations is one of the most sought-after services because it can be the most valuable.
Many business owners don't understand what they pay for when they pay for public relations. It's not to bring you sales. If it does, that's great. A side effect of good PR is more business, but public relations is all about how the public perceives you and your brand. It's step one.
It's not about the money.
If a publicist tells you they will earn you more money if you work with them, they are lying because it's impossible to say how people will react to their service. The point of PR isn't to jump straight into sales. It's an introduction and a reputation builder. Then, after seeing you here or there a few times, you'll grow on people, and sales may happen.
It's not fast.
When it comes to media relations specifically, it's like playing the stock market. You don't expect to get all your money back in the first month. If that were the case, we'd all be publicists or we'd all be rich. Instead, with good PR, your brand will slowly build into something better and better over time. Sure, there are those rare occurrences when something big happens and you're off to the races, but that's rare and usually something you can't plan - like a viral video.
It's not controlled.
There are also no guarantees. I wish I had a dollar for everytime someone asked me, "How much do I need to pay you to get me on Oprah?" If you want to buy an ad on her network, you need to contact the sales department at OWN. If you want to earn something, then you better be great... and patient. Anyone can buy an ad in an outlet, but it takes a lot more than money to earn a mention or feature in a well-recognized media outlet.
I like to compare earning media with seeing a doctor or hiring a lawyer. You can't predict what will happen at the end of your appointment or court date. You're investing in the possibility of a positive outcome - what the professional knows and what they've done for others in the past.
It's vital for any brand.
Public relations is a long-term game. It's not a get rich quick scheme. It's a brand builder.
There is no better way to build your business than by having people choose to say wonderful things about you - whether it be customers, clients, friends, or people in the media. A good reputation is the most important thing a business can have, and without good PR, you won't have it.