Why would a Los Angeles-based retailer hire a New York-based boutique public relations firm to handle the launch of new stores in a southern city? Hiring a local public relations firm would have made more sense, especially if the retailer in question did not already enjoy a national presence. Expanding a business to a new region can be an exhilarating, exhausting, and scary process. Hiring a local public relations firm when expanding into a new region makes sense for a number of reasons, including:
1. Every state, city, town, and county has its own personality, but there’s one thing that people typically have in common: They’re provincial. I’ve lived in rural areas, the suburbs, and the city, and the level of provincialism has been the same everywhere. At heart, people are “locals” wherever they live, and that means a distinct, collective personality has evolved. It makes sense for a local, rather than an out-of-towner, to come up with a strategy to promote and market to this personality.
2. A good deal of public relations is about relationships. The people involved in the local public relations community have relationships with the local media. They know the television and radio producers, and they know the reporters and editors. An out-of-town firm may have contacts in the area, but it’s doubtful it will have strong relationships built by face-to-face time with the local media. The out-of-town firm is not there to watch the local news, listen to the local radio, or hear people talk about what is in the local newspaper. The out-of-town firm may discount the power of one local media outlet while believing another is more powerful because the firm is looking in from the outside. Would you ask a New Yorker what the best local media outlet in Dallas is?
3. Because journalists are locals, they’re also provincial. They may question why an out-of-town company expanding to their area is not utilizing local service providers such as a public relations firm. They may wonder why they’re suddenly being called by a public relations rep in Chicago who’s working for a Seattle-based company that’s opening a store in Orlando. Again, it’s about relationships, and journalists don’t see much need in cultivating relationships with PR people if it’s a one-shot deal.
4. Local public relations firms can act more quickly if there are problems because they’re already on the ground. They can tap their resources more easily to resolve problems, saving time because they don’t need to search for the right contacts to remedy a situation. I was at an event a number of years ago in Baltimore and a New York-based PR firm was handling the details. The DJ hired to work the event failed to show up and the PR people were on the phone to New York. The PR people in New York were calling back to other people in Baltimore looking for a DJ. By the time the situation was fixed it was too late and the event had pretty much failed. A Baltimore-area public relations rep I was hanging out with got a good chuckle out of all of this. “I could have had a DJ here in 20 minutes,” he said.
5. It’s typically cheaper to hire a local PR firm. There are little to no travel costs and fewer long distance phone calls to be billed for. The locals already have relationships with the local media, so you can bet they won’t be spending as much money on wining and dining journalists whom they already know. The locals also know where to obtain services more cheaply, something that is particularly true when you’re looking to rent out some kind of space for an event. And, of course, pricing for public relations services varies from area-to-area. Chances are the locals are going to be cheaper than the alternatives of a national firm or an out-of-town boutique.
6. Locals know more people in the area. I know that sounds simple, but imagine a restaurant or store opening. You want to pack people in to create a buzz. PR people help you bring people in by inviting friends, family and professional contacts. If I had to do public relations for a nightclub opening in Seattle I could invite about five people I know. Do it in New York and I’ve got the place packed.
By hiring a local public relations firm, you can at least have the peace of mind that someone intimately familiar with the market is in charge of one of the most important facets of the expansion.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.