red flagRecently, I received an email from someone asking if I would be interested in providing PR services for a fundraising campaign he is embarking on.

He is doing this because so far, at least, he’s been unsuccessful in securing funding to build a prototype for what sounds like an interesting invention in the energy field. So now he’s turning to crowd-funding.

Specifically, he said, he wanted to “hire a professional PR specialist with [a] sound knowledge of social media marketing and [who is] also well-connected.”

I wrote back asking for more details on the project, including timeframe and budget.

The essence of his response was that because of my “position” – and I quote from his note with minor edits for readability – “top 25 women in online media, 5,000 [people have me] in their circles (I assume he means Google+), 12,000 followers on Twitter, etc.” – he thought I was the right person to work with.

The timeframe to get started was less than 10 days to “prepare a PR packet” and get started. And there was no budget, but we could discuss a commission structure.

I declined, saying that this was too tight a timeframe for me (which is true), and that I don’t work on commission (which is also true).

If this gentleman’s invention is as revolutionary as he says it is, I hope he finds the funding he needs.

But I also hope he goes about it in a more strategic way than he is trying to find PR representation.

There are so many reasons I say this – he wanted a “professional” but didn’t want to pay for one, he didn’t ask about my interest/experience in the subject matter, he assumed that a “PR packet” could be slapped together, etc. – but the biggest red flag for me was that he fixated on the size of my network.

This is the absolutely worst reason anyone can hire a public relations practitioner.

What difference does it make how many circles I’m in, how many followers I have, yadda yadda? Are those people going to cough up the dough to build this prototype? Are they even going to be interested in it? Are they going to become part of his community?

Nope.

And I have seen/heard of countless pros being approached primarily for this reason – that they have large networks – regardless of what their experience is, regardless of how well-suited they might be for a project, regardless of their interest in a particular field.

If, as a business owner, you’re in that mindset, please get out of it. Now.

What someone’s social score is, or how many followers they have on Twitter, means diddly-squat for you. Because it’s their network. Not yours. And no matter how much you try, or even they might try, they are not going to be able to transfer that community over to you.

It might work a little at the beginning but it certainly won’t be sustainable, unless it’s a very niche community… which means that, in all likelihood, it’s not a large one. Which brings you back to Square One.

So when you hire, please hire wisely.

Hire for experience. Hire for quality. Hire for smart, creative thinking. Hire for interest.

Hire for commitment. Hire for reliability. And certainly hire for budget, but don’t expect to get any practitioner worth his/her salt for free, because I can tell you that a lot more goes into creating and implementing a strategic public relations plan than putting together a “PR packet” and banging out a few news releases.

Please don’t hire because you think their network is going to fall in love with you/your business/product/service.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Image: Yosef M. via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke