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A great publicist is happy to give references on the spot. At your first meeting (on the phone or in person), casually request a few references to check out. If she feels confident in her work, she will happily supply you with several names then and there. (If she hesitates, beware!)

When you follow up with a reference, be specific. Ask him to describe how the publicist has improved his company. Nothing matters more than results.

Ask her what she does best. If the specialties she lists aren’t what you need, she may not be right for you. (Be open-minded, however. She may have insights you have never considered!)

Look for the two “Rs”: responsibility and results. It’s true that there are no guarantees in PR. However, a good publicist will be willing to take responsibility for her performance and for your satisfaction. Don’t settle for less than a 30-day (at least) exit clause. Results do matter—don’t simply settle for “activity.”

Listen to her questions as well as her answers to your questions. A good publicist will ask intelligent questions about your company and inquire about your specific goals and plans. No one needs an arrogant publicist who assumes she knows what’s best for you.

Agree up-front on what constitutes a successful marketing plan. You can’t determine if your partnership is a success until you know what success looks like. Create a schedule for a few concrete deliverables. It’s important that you’re both on the same page.

Be sure the publicist is at least as smart as you are. In this business, brains matter! Hire someone who appears to be genuinely bright, discerning, energetic, and innovative. 

Can she justify her fees? A publicist should be able to provide you with not only a total price, but a breakdown of all individual costs and services she will provide.

A publicist is only as good as her vendors. Ask probing questions on how she chooses these critical cast members. Ask to see samples of their portfolio. Does your publicist take responsibility for their work? If you sense any hesitation in this area, move on.

Make sure your personalities are a good match. If a publicist is too aggressive for your personal comfort level, she’s probably wrong for your company culture. Likewise, if she’s too laid-back or conservative, seek someone a bit more hard-driving. If a relationship feels wrong, it probably is.

Sounds obvious…but make sure she can write! Your publicist must have impeccable grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills. This is non-negotiable. (You might be surprised how many so-called publicists are sloppy writers.) Read carefully over any promotional documents she sends you and look for red flags.

Be sure your publicist can get along with everyone at your company. Choose someone who is excited about being a team player, not someone who insists on being the superstar. You are the real superstar…she’s there only to make sure you shine!