Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pay for Placement PR

Monday's Wall Street Journal featured an article on "pay for placement" publicity for small businesses. Just the phrase "pay for placement" makes me cringe. It's soooo incredibly expensive -- outrageously so, in fact, when you compare it to what a competent, credentialed professional might charge on an hourly or retainer basis to get the same results.

Here's why pay for placement is appealing to some biz owners: They've been burned by so-called PR practitioners who just plain aren't good at what they do. The small biz owner in the article refers to one publicist she hired who "talked about her" at local parties. Puh-leeze. That's not publicity. That's gossip. Pay me a few thousand dollars and I'll talk about your company at the next Fairport Girls Basketball Booster Club meeting. Let's see how much good that does for you.

Please don't go the pay for placement route. You can't afford it. A good publicist -- someone with training and a track record -- will use all the same tools that a PfP practitioner will use for the same results, but will charge you a more appropriate fee for the results. I've got an entire chapter on how to select a public relations firm in my how-to publicity book for small business owners, Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans: How to Create Publicity That Will Spark Media Exposure and Excitement. Let it guide you. Here's the cheat sheet:
  • Ask other business owners who have enjoyed publicity success who they hired. Talk to them about what they do and don't like about their PR firm. Use that input to help you decide if the firm is a good fit for you and how you like to do business.
  • Interview several firms. Ask to meet the individuals who will work on your account. (Larger firms are known for doing a bait and switch -- they wow you with the brains of the business then assign a very junior staffer to your account.)
  • Ask for proof that they can do what you need them to do. This is REAL important.
  • Consider a veteran solo practitioner. You want someone who's been doing this awhile working on your behalf. Contact your local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and ask for the names of a few good solo members.
Better yet, consider doing your own publicity. It's not rocket science. It DOES take an understanding of how the system works and what tools to use, but you can pick up most of it by reading a few books and cultivating relationships with key media gatekeepers. I've seen many small business owners do an amazing job of generating publicity all on their own. And keep coming back here for tips and advice. I'll continue to do my best to give you what you need to know to generate exciting media exposure for your business or organization.


Jen A. Miller said...

I worry about pay to play placements. How can you keep track of whether or not the PR person did any work for the placement, or if it was a journalist acting solo? I wrote about a Southern New Jersey town quite a bit, and I never use the PR person. But she gets credit -- and money -- every time I write about it, without her lifting a finger? That's just bad business. It makes me not want to write about the town, and that's not helping anyone.

Anonymous said...

I 'm very interested in using this for my small business. Can you give me an outline of how much I should pay per article - national newspaper vs. regional and local?

Sandra Beckwith said...


Since I'm opposed to the "pay for placement" practice, I can't offer you any guidelines.

Sandy Beckwith

Pam Perry, PR Coach said...

Pay per placement works! I have a ton media relations but I have shifted to really teaching Christian authors to "D-Y-I" but most are really too lazy to learn or too busy to take the time to Pay per Placement is the way for them. They just want to do a radio tour, or get some ink in the newspaper or an article written in a magazine. Hey, if they don't want to put in the time learn - then they are happy to put the cash to get the placement. I just give people what they want. I never promise Oprah or anything like that - but I do tell them my targets and the cost - and it works on both ends.

Both must have an understanding.
costs range from $250 to $5,000. Depends in the circ or reach of the audience.

Love your book by the way! Got it years ago.