PR on a shoestring – pay per hit can work for you

Traditionally the phrase pay per hit PR has sent shivers down the spines of both business owners and PR consultants. However it is a method growing in popularity and should be a serious consideration for small businesses during the recession.

When a recession hits and business conditions are tough, it is natural for business owners and directors to look at where they can cut budgets and save capital. For some people marketing and PR is the first thing to be cut. Others however take a different stance and look to utilise PR and marketing to ensure they are attracting new clients and customers. It is often those businesses that come out the other side bigger and stronger.

The challenge facing small business owners who want to be ambitious during the recession is how to maximise the exposure they get without committing unnecessary funds. The good news for them is that PR practitioners are starting to look creatively at how they can boost their own cash flow and there are therefore now a number of options open to directors looking for low cost result driven PR, including pay per hit PR.

Recession is increasing the popularity of ‘pay per hit’ PR

In general PR agencies have always tried to avoid working with clients on a pay per hit basis because it means they do not get paid for the many hours spent chasing coverage that does not come off. As a result they tend to cover their backs by charging high fees for each hit and committing fewer man hours and less experienced staff to those clients.

The market is now full of freelance PR professionals who have come from well reputed agencies that are able to be more flexible with their own service fees. This allows businesses with smaller budgets to access the same PR support that has previously cost large companies anywhere between £5,000 and £20,000 per month. The low overheads that freelancers tend to have is enabling them to charge fees that are more appealing to small business owners who do not want to pay the extra for fancy offices and staff perks.

Working with the right PR consultant on a pay per hit basis can allow you to continue to push your business forward using targeted and strategic publicity, whilst staying in complete control of how much you are spending.

Tips for making pay per hit PR work for you:

The Costs

The cost of using outside support on a pay by result basis can vary hugely depending on who is being used, so before deciding on a person to use it is important to do a bit of research and shop around. Commonly either you will be quoted a set price based on a scale of coverage types or you will be charged a set percentage of the cost of advertising in the specific publication you appear in.

Keeping control of the budget

Before signing any agreement it is important you have a conversation with your PR consultant and set a clear budget cap and then have it put down in writing that you will not be charged beyond that budget regardless of coverage that appears.

Agree a target audience

In order to get the most out of your coverage it is important that both you and your consultant understand exactly who you want to reach. Whilst it may be tempting to be very specific about the publications you want to appear in, that is likely to limit the effectiveness of your campaign.

Any PR professional worth their salt will have a very good knowledge of who reads which publications. For example if you are an upmarket retailer then don’t rule out The News of The World on the basis that you think it is a trashy tabloid and all it’s readers are uneducated slobs. Industry research shows that of the papers seven million readers, three million fit in the ABC1 social group (middle and upper class working professional adults). That is almost two million more ABC1 adults than read the Sunday Telegraph.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t agree boundaries, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not listening to the expert advice of your consultant.

Allow yourself to be advised

The biggest stumbling block that a PR consultant will often come across when trying to secure coverage are the clients themselves.

The advantage of using an experienced PR professional on a pay per hit basis is that you are getting a skilled expert for a fraction of the cost of many of your competitors. Your consultant will know what will work and what will make journalists run a mile. When sending out material to a journalist it is their own reputation they are putting on the line as well as yours, so trust their advice because they should have your best interests at heart.

Dip in and Out

The biggest advantage of pay per hit PR is that you can carefully manage when you are spending your money. You are not paying on a month by month basis so you can create campaigns to meet specific needs at specific times.

It is important however to bear in mind that newspapers and magazines have different lead in times. While news coverage will tend to appear in newspapers within a few days, features will often be written a number of weeks in advance. Glossy magazines on the other hand can have anything from a two to six month lead in time, so if you want a product to appear in their November issue for Christmas then you need to speak to your PR consultant in April or May.

Tell your consultant what you want promoted and when for and they will be able to put together a time line plan for you that will help you budget in advance.

Don’t settle for less

Just because you are not on a monthly retainer doesn’t mean you should expect a service any less than a regular client. Before working with a PR consultants ask them to spend time chatting through their plans with you and request a written proposal of ideas. If they are not willing to put in the time to get to know your product, brand or service then they are not going to be in a strong position to ‘sell’ you to a journalist.

About the author

David Martin is the founder of Be Known, an ad-hoc freelance PR and communications consultancy for small and medium sized businesses.

Bytestart Limited

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