Pay-per-placement PR gains traction with small business owners; PRSA Chair and CEO Rhoda Weiss, APR, Fellow PRSA, offers perspective

December 17, 2007

Pay-per-placement PR is growing in popularity among small companies, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. The PR tactic, in which clients pay only for stories placed with a media outlet, also has its share of critics.

A mention in a news article or television broadcast can dramatically boost a little-known company. However, small companies struggle with getting news coverage. The Journal examined Cynthia McKay’s struggles to hire an effective PR representative to raise the profile of Le Gourmet Gift Basket Inc., her Castle Rock, Colo.-based company.

After going through $3,000 in two weeks with no results with the first PR professional she hired, McKay turned to two other PR sources, who offered the pay-per-placement model. Despite her struggles, after gaining business-boosting coverage, McKay said the time spent on public relations of this sort was worth it.

However, the paper indicated that the tactic isn’t for everyone. Critics pointed out that many pay-per-placement firms, for instance, won’t take on tasks other than pitching stories to the media. Clients, therefore, get no strategic development, marketing or other professional input that many small businesses may need for a PR campaign to be effective.

PRSA’s Chair and CEO Rhoda Weiss, APR, Fellow PRSA, spoke to the Journal about the trend. She said that public relations was about “more than being in the media. When you work with a [full-service] public relations firm, they will develop communication strategy.”




Eric Drake, APR says:

Having worked with a client for four years on pay-for-results model, I can tell you unequivocally that when structured carefully, this sort of arrangement is highly profitable because it is focused on those media only the client deems are important and, therefore, is willing to pay for. In addition it led to many other fee-for-service arrangements beyond publicity, keeping our firm deeply involved in and helpful to the growth of the client's business. The client grew the business and eventually sold it. Having said that, I know now it takes a very special and motivated client to consider this type of fee arrangement.

Dec. 17, 2007

Brian Olson says:

I'm not surprised to hear that pay-per placement PR is growing. As many of you know, there is a growing number of shows on local affiliates that are devoted exclusively to this sort of programming. In some very good time slots with surprisingly good size audiences. And I've seen both very effective and very poor use of time on those shows. But there is another opportunity, because those same stations are programming huge numbers of hours to news programming, especially in the mornings. Weekends are terrific opportunities, because while the content hours are long, staffs are small. Before becoming a corporate communications executive, I was in major market television news and would be pitched all the time. At the end I always asked, "So what?" If they had an answer, they likely made it on my broadcast. Regardless of pay, or traditional media coverage, always ask yourself, "So What?" If you can't answer that question, move on to the next big thing. Brian Olson Vice-President of Public Affairs Video Professor, Inc.

Dec. 17, 2007

Lucy Siegel, President, Bridge Global Strategies says:

Three years ago I opened up my own firm and have been dealing with smaller companies, including a lot of start-ups. Start-up entrepreneurs naturally want to be careful about how they spend their marketing budgets. It can be extremely rewarding working with entrepreneurs in small companies and helping them to grow their businesses. Many of them don't know that much about marketing or PR when we begin working with them but are enthusiastic and happy to learn, and it's fun and challenging to work with them and learn about their businesses, as well. That's the making of a win-win small business team between agency and client. But then there are other types of clients that are not forthcoming with information, don't make any attempt to understand how we work, and don't hold up their end of the deal to give us what we need to do our jobs. I've had more than one client that has ruined a product launch by not meeting the manufacturing deadines and therefore not having adequate product on hand to loan or give to journalists at agreed-upon media launch time, or by being unavailable or not showing up for scheduled important interviews. It is not unusual for this kind of marketing person to turn to the PR agency at the end of the launch and wonder why the results weren't better. The finger of blame is almost never pointed inward. If we were compensated on placements, we'd really be in trouble. I've had people propose that they would pay for success only but I will not accept this kind of arrangement. Our success as communications professionals is extremely dependent on the actions and behavior of our clients.

Dec. 19, 2007

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