Speaking with B2B publishers on a regular basis, it seems that many PR agencies and their clients continue to fight the concept of paying any sort of fee for coverage in magazines, on websites and in e-newsletters. Whilst this is a noble standpoint, I think a good old reality check is in order for anyone who thinks their stories will always be published purely on merit.
I’m not suggesting that PR advisors should give up on generating great quality content and that editors don’t welcome this with open arms. I’m simply saying that we must understand that if we want these channels to exist – in an era when ad budgets are a fraction of what they used to be – we need to allow for some expenditure when budgeting. It’s a mix – there are publishers whose business models mean they can publish news on merit, but for most this space is very limited (and display advertisers will rightly push for preferential treatment when this space is available).
Any PR consultant who tries to target sectors such as architecture, building, food processing, and engineering, will soon find that genuine free editorial is just about impossible to secure on a regular basis. However, feedback I’ve had from editors, indicates that PR agencies are still hoodwinking their clients into believing that their sheer skill, charm, strength of their relationships and outstanding writing ability means that no budget is required – and that these costs are simply a scam.
This is extremely concerning. The economic viability of many publications depends on an income for colour separation charges. So if every PR consultant said ‘no we don’t pay them’, then we would wave goodbye to the very channels that convey the messages of the clients paying our wages. And without these channels, what are PR agencies selling to their clients? Where are they expecting to get the coverage? The occasional piece every few months? Is that enough to justify the often hefty consultancy fee?
One thing that I believe the PR industry is generally pretty poor at is ‘commercial acumen’, and understanding that businesses exist to make a profit and deliver a service that the market wants. The attitude by some PR consultants towards colour separation charges that I hear backs up my view. In my experience, committing budget the help fund the trade media through colour separation charges – or any kind of advertising package – will payback ten-fold.
It is simple – if you are budgeting £500 to create a press release, why not allow for another £300-£500 to pay for coverage? Yes it raises the overall cost, but what’s the point in investing £500 in developing a story that will probably only appear on your website news section and your company e-newsletter?
So if your PR agency tells you that you won’t need to commit a budget to pay for coverage in the trade media, be concerned. You might be replacing them after six months when the coverage is virtually non-existent!