It’s the question every company will inevitably ask when debating marketing strategies: Should we hire a West Coast, East Coast or local public relations firm? Or, do we bring it in-house?
There are objective methods to identify the best PR approach for your business. And contrary to what many entrepreneurs believe, it has nothing to do with a PR firm’s size, revenue, industry or makeup. It has everything to do with your company’s objectives and goals.
I might appear partial since my firm is based in New York, but my years of working in local and national news — from Phoenix to Miami to New York — bring an insider’s perspective on how news stories are placed. In New York, I led many morning news meetings as we debated which stories to tell. And as a local news producer in Miami and Phoenix, I saw how the region and local culture influenced story selection.
Here are three questions to help you better identify whether an East Coast, West Coast or local PR firm is best for your business, regardless of your industry or location.
Do we want national coverage?
With today’s technology, you don’t need to be in any specific city because you can reach reporters from anywhere. However, there is an insurmountable advantage by being on East Coast time, and an even bigger edge being in New York where the national news agenda is created.
The debate over the day’s news agenda typically starts at 9 a.m. EST for national news organizations. It doesn’t matter if it’s 24-hour cable news, the networks or syndicated programming; this is the meeting when everyone comes together to share their thoughts and opinions on what the news should be for the day.
If a story on your industry develops overnight, your PR firm has a small window to get your brand into the conversation because once that morning meeting is over, it’s harder to get an editor or executive producer to approve a story.
An experienced publicist on East Coast time can see where the morning news agenda is headed based on overnight developments. There have been many times when I heard an angle as I was getting ready for work, thus giving me ample time to insert my client into the day’s news cycle.
It’s not as easy on the West Coast since most publicists are asleep at 5 a.m. PST, or about the time you should be pitching to reporters. And even if your San Francisco publicist gets to work by 9 a.m. PST, that’s around the time when most reporters and producers in New York are headed to lunch.
Factor in deadlines that typically begin around 3 p.m. EST, and you’ll see publicists effectively have less than three hours to reach reporters and TV producers with national news organizations.
Do we want local news coverage?
When it comes to getting a story on the local news, there are many variables that factor in, but region and media market play a pivotal role in influencing coverage.
Generally speaking, it helps to work with a PR firm that understands the editorial slant in your local news market.
For example, the Northeast region of the country, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia, places a larger emphasis on harder news, while I’ve found that West Coast markets tend to run softer news features. It’s simple math; you’re competing with harder news in larger markets versus smaller markets where there is less breaking news, though they all have similar space to fill. It’s more nuanced in the Southern and Midwestern markets, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll save that for another day.
If you’re leaning toward hiring a local PR firm in your city, make sure the publicist understands the local news climate. And I’m not talking about contacts. (Any publicist can research the right journalists to pitch in any city.) It’s important the local PR firm you choose has a deep understanding of the local news climate and includes the local vernacular in their discussions.
So what about tech startups that want to reach the Silicon Valley media? In this situation, it’s probably more important to identify a PR firm that understands your industry to technology over a PR firm that is located down the street. Yes, you can meet the publicist in person, but it’s highly unlikely the publicist will be equally meeting the reporter in person.
Should we go in-house for PR?
This is a very legitimate question for anyone in accounting or operations. On the surface, why hire a PR agency when you might be able to hire a full-time person for roughly the same cost?
This is more of an individual approach based on the publicist’s experience, efficiency, supporting team members and tech tools given to this in-house hire.
If the budget is smaller and your in-house publicist doesn’t have as much experience, you might be better off going with a PR firm that can bring a more experienced team to scale the story.
It’s important to factor in tech tools and subscriptions your in-house publicist will need to succeed with any media campaign. If it’s an individual versus a team scaling a message, I’d personally put my money on the team. However, if the in-house hire is experienced and given the tech tools and team support to succeed, I’d go with the individual. But by that definition, it’s no longer a single hire. You’re now transitioning into a PR department, thus introducing an entirely new variable.