• 31Aug

    1limbo1After working in Silicon Valley for more than two decades, I have watched the booms and busts. In the good times, it seems as though the high-priced PR firms won’t touch an account for less than $10,000 or $15,000 per month, and freelance work usually commands top dollar. In tough times, the agencies cut their retainers in half and start looking for account work to just keep the lights on, and freelancers are willing to cut their rates just to keep the work flowing.

    In this most recent recession, I have seen more panic than usual. All the marketing budgets were slashed in December and are just now they starting to rebound. With the increase in marketing layoffs there are more “consultants” out there than ever before, and agencies have been signing contracts for a fraction of what they used to charge. So as companies are now realizing they can’t dismantle their marketing machines and continue to generate sales, they are are starting to shop for PR and marketing talent at bargain prices.

    All the rates have been slashed so services are generally available dirt cheap. In tough times, marketeers tend to abandon their rates just so they can stay competitive, and in the end, it’s all about price…

    “Attention marcomm shoppers, we now have a blue light special in Aisle 5 – discounts on press releases and media tours.”

    If you have tried to use any of the online freelance referral services, like E-lance, you know that most of them put contracts out to bid, and the result is that it’s all about price. With online referral services, you find yourself competing with international rates as well as domestic. It’s hard to compete with writing and PR services in less expensive markets that have little or no overhead. They may not be able to deliver results , but they certainly can deliver the process for less. (One of the many reasons I steer away from RFPs.)

    I have been guilty of discounting along with many other PR professionals, but it’s a cannibalistic practice. If you bill $60, $70, or $80 per hour today, or offer to do a press release for $200 or $300, why should that same work be worth two or three times more when the economy improves? Better to stick to your guns. I, for one, have developed a rate card for common PR services so clients and prospects can estimate cost for my services, just as though they were estimating a press wire drop. I don’t think you have to drop your rates if you can adopt a “no surprises” policy when it comes to pricing. Clients understand they get what they pay for, as long as you tell them the price in advance.

    So stick to your pricing and resist the temptation to offer discounted contracts, no matter what the economic climate. It just makes it that much harder to charge a fair rate when market conditions improve.

    To dramatize the point, I want to direct you to a YouTube video that has been making the rounds among the consulting set. Everything else in our lives has a predefined rate. You don’t negotiate the price of groceries, or gasoline, or a haircut, so why are PR services negotiable? Set your rate and stick by your guns. In the long run, it will pay off.


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  • 29Aug

    Newseun News History Gallery

    This week, I have been traveling to Washington, DC, to get my stepdaughter settled in at George Washington University. While sightseeing, I had a chance to stop in at the Newseum, the recently opened news museum. If you ever have a chance, I urge you to visit Newseum – it’s an incredible experience.

    As a follow-up to my last blog post, it was interesting to see the role that citizen journalism has played throughout history. One of the exhibitions, the Pulliam Family Great Books Gallery, included a number of historical printed documents, such as Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica,” Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” a few Revolutionary War pamphlets, and Frederick Douglass’ autobiography. I was struck by the role these early political observers and commentators played in the evolution of modern journalism. Viewing some of the archival material at the museum and the very moving 9/11 exhibit, it reminded me that much of citizen journalism is a matter of being a witness and recording what you see. It’s often a matter of being in the right place at the right time and making observations.

    So in a sense, today’s bloggers and tweeters are carrying on the tradition of the pamphleteers, commenting on events of the day. There were a number of Newseum exhibits that talked about Internet technology and its impact on journalism today, such as the Twittering of the recent Moldovian revolution. Blogs have the potential to be the pamphlets of the 21st century, and as with the early pamphleteers, there is a responsibility that comes with blogging. This is part of the reason I am so concerned about making sure there is transparency in the blogosphere. Whether you are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or maintaining a weblog, you need to tell visitors who you are and where your interests lie.


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  • 23Aug
    AllthePresidentsMenThere is no doubt that the newspaper industry is in trouble. The information explosion driven by the web is making it easy to access information from any number of sources, which is making it harder for local news sources to compete. So they change their editorial formats or they fail. A case in point is the San Francisco Chronicle’s online version, SFGate. As the Chronicle has had to make cuts across the board, from the Sunday comics section to staffing cuts, they have been supplementing their online coverage with citizen journalism as the print edition gets smaller and smaller. The site has added a Twitter feed and a new section called City Brights, where local professionals, politicians and pundits get a chance to share their views.

    But what is happening to professional journalism?

    Having been a journalist myself for over a decade early in my career, I have an appreciation for what it takes to research the story and get it right. One of my favorite films, “All the Presidents Men,” documents the lengths that Woodward and Bernstein had to go through to verify the facts in the Watergate cover up before they could go to press. That’s journalism! With advent of the web, the rules have changed as the difference between blogger and journalist becomes blurred. I want my news researched and verified before it gets served up online or in print.

    I recall a Business Wire Media Breakfast where different Bay Area journalists talked about how and why they blog. One technology reporter for the San Jose Mercury News shared his criteria for when a rumor becomes a news story: if he could verify a story with three sources, it goes into the paper; if he couldn’t verify the story, it went on the blog.

    While the growth of new media outlets such as Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, and the millions of blogs across the Internet are changing the way we communicate with one another, they are also undermining the profitability of newspapers and conventional news media. Many news outlets are adapting as best they can. CNN uses Twitter feeds very effectively with multiple micro newsfeeds. Anderson Cooper has a big online footprint with a blog, a Facebook fan page, and more. These are great for brand reinforcement to promote the credibility of their television news coverage, and more importantly, they are a means for viewers to participate and engage in the conversation.

    And then there are newspapers like the Chronicle. I fear that more papers will let the professional journalists and substitute content with online information and cheaper (read free) sources to cut costs.

    The news industry is changing, and as new revenue models emerge to support the new media, it’s important to remember the old values of professional journalism. I want my information researched and processed by professionals. I only hope that professional journalists can still find a way to be adequately paid to be professionals.

    [This blog post was sparked by a recent review of Chris Anderson’s book Free: The Future of Radical Price written by Malcolm Gladwell and published in The New Yorker. There are some interesting ideas shared in that review and we will revisit it in a future blog post.]

  • 21Aug

    What the F**K is Social Media: One Year Later

    View more documents from Marta Kagan.

    Interested in social media? Don’t understand social media? Trying to determine the real market value of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn? Well welcome to the club.

    The pundits abound, and everyone is trying to make sense of the online media phenom. Which is why I wanted to share this presentation from Marta Kagan of Espresso. She calls herself a bona fide marketing genius, and she admits that she swears like a sailor, but she has a fresh (albeit off color) perspective on social media.

    Is the revolution coming? Is it here already? And who will be the first against the wall? I’m adding social media to my client recommendations, for the obvious reasons that Marta highlights here, but it’s only one component in a comprehensive PR/marketing program.


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  • 21Aug

    cobblers-shoesI have been providing public relations, branding, and marketing communications services to clients for 20 years now. In recent years, I have been advising my clients in how to tap the blogosphere by working with bloggers and becoming citizen journalists, and how to leverage emerging social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. And, like many successful consultants, I have been sufficiently busy servicing my clients that I have neglected marketing my own brand. It is time I started following my own advice.

    Hence the launch of The PRagmatist, which I hope will evolve into an online forum to exchange insights and ideas about the rapidly changing world of marketing, communications, and public relations. I run across interesting insights and tidbits every day that I share with clients and colleagues. By launching this blog I now have a forum to share my thoughts and ideas with a wider audience, and solicit your feedback as to PR and marketing ideas that make sense, and those that don’t in today’s market.

    Much of my insight will relate to revelations from client projects and exchanges with other professionals. And I hope to interject some fun and personal insights as well. The challenge, of course, will be finding the time to keep up with posts on a timely basis. Unlike the shoemaker whose children go barefoot, I will endeavor to make this online destination insightful, interesting, and worthy of your attention.

    Feel free to engage, comment, critique, and keep me honest. I look forward to hearing from you.



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