PR Pros Need to Practice What They Preach

When I launched this blog a few weeks ago, I cited the problem that many marketeers have finding the time and resources to service their own marketing needs. It’s interesting that Marc Hausman, founder of Strategic Communications Group, cited the same issues a few days later, and even used a similar headline, “Fallacy of the Cobbler’s Shoe-less Children.”faucet_Full

As Marc notes, there are a number of agencies out there that fail to practice what they preach. They deem social media and networking as a business strategy, as long as they aren’t too busy doing something else that makes real money. Marc cites two agencies who let their blogs languish while they were pursuing paying clients. As many agencies (and clients) have discovered in this economic recession, you can’t abandon your marketing strategy or your pipeline will dry up.

One commentator to Marc’s blog noted that the best agencies have a dedicated marketing team to make sure that marketing the agency’s services doesn’t fall between the cracks. I have seen that work in some settings, but most agencies are resource-constrained and the rank-and-file has to find a way to build agency marketing into their daily routine. I have worked on the marketing committee for a few agencies, and we managed to build in web redesign, collateral updates, social networking, and other tasks into the day-to-day routine – it’s all part of the MBOs. In fact, it should be part of your DNA.

In fact, I am writing this blog while I take a lunch break from developing a new business proposal. You can always find time to market yourself if you make marketing a priority.

So thanks to Marc and those other PR professionals who walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

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PR Pricing Limbo: How Low Can You Go?

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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Shoes for the Cobbler’s Children

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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