So you have decided to take that step and hire a public relations firm.

The person, or firm, that will be representing your brand manager, the face of your product, your company or possibly even…you.

If you have never worked within public relations, written your own press release, picked up the phone and decided to ring a few media contacts you will not know the warning signs of a PR firm or professional that is not REALLY a PR professional.

Publicists come a dime a dozen but a truly talented and hardworking publicist is a rare find.  Here are a few warning signs that a publicist is not at all the right choice.

#1)They won’t provide you with any type of reporting.

Most public relations firms will not share their contacts. A lot of them pay for media contacts through services such as PR Newswire’s Media Atlas or Cision and they sign contracts stating that they are not allowed to.

Some of them simply guard their contacts to avoid others using them and have the upper hand within the industry which is quite understandable.

However, they should provide you with an updated report every so often, either monthly or bi-monthly stating work that has been done and what media outlets have shown interest.

The report should also include a contact name at the media outlet. What happens if you decide to terminate your contract or the firm goes belly up and you cannot work with them anymore? Do you begin from scratch? No you have a report to push forward with, names to track down for future reference and confirmation of a job well done.

#2) They do not know how to write a press release.

Many times clients come to me with a horror story. They have just fired their publicist and are jaded in working with another such as mine. They put money upfront for services that ended terribly wrong in the past because the PR campaign never really began.

In these cases the client always provides me with a link to the press release that “their old publicist” wrote for them, and I always in turn giggle. I pop open the trusty link each and every time to find nothing but a pile of jargon formatted terribly wrong posted up on a meaningless press release website. In most cases:

The single most blatant tell tale sign that a publicist is a sham is when the press release does not have a boiler plate.

A boiler plate is the info at the bottom of the press release that reads “ About (Insert Your Company Name Here). The boiler then continues on with a firm rundown of the company, owner, author etc.  A boiler is standard in all press releases and if your release is missing it….then it is not a release.

Huge red flag to the client that came to me and the boiler on all of their press releases was info for the PR firm that they chose to work with. Isn’t that a bit backwards random communications professional?  Why are you advertising on the bottom of your client’s press release when it should be their information?

#3) They don’t have set contract terms.

Any PR firm or real publicist that has worked within the industry knows that for every wonderful client, there are three that will make you want to take it to the WWF.

This being said, if your firm does not have a list of established terms that make you sit up and say wow they are strict than more than likely you are the test dummy that is in for the crash and burn of PR experience 101 for them.