Trying to pull a fast (company) one

Today's guest post is by Greg Schmalz, president, Schmalz Communications.

Show-me-the-moneyBeing a solo public relations practitioner, I provide services in a number of ways.  One, I have clients who work directly with me and I provide them with counsel, strategy and services from writing press releases, case studies, bylined articles and the like as well as media relations.

Having been an award-winning sportswriter earlier in my professional career and having worked in network radio for years, I made the transition to public relations. It has been a rewarding career as I took the entrepreneurial approach of starting my own business after being downsized several times.

Media relations is my niche and often I am called upon to deliver results – whether it’s for my clients or as a free-lancer to small, medium and even large agencies from New York to California. In baseball lore, I’m like a “call to the bullpen” as I often bail agencies out of a jam.  I’m a “hired gun” with a bulldog approach.  In other words, I am aggressive in working with editors and getting results.

But, on occasion you get situations where the client doesn’t see the value in hiring you unless you deliver the results.  In other words, they want to see the results.  I’m a seasoned communications professional and my track record speaks for itself.  But they want to skirt the issue and pay only when you deliver.

Often I am asked “who (journalists) do you know here” and “who do you know there.”  And my response is the same.  “All the right people.”  In these tough economic times where the publishing industry has been hard hit and magazines are closing, newspapers are folding and everyone is having a tough time making ends meet, writers are now wearing more than one hat on an editorial staff and some journalists have jumped ship to find a better financial deal.

But when it comes to media relations, it’s commonplace to research and navigate your way to find the right person to pitch a story.

I recently was consulted by an agency to deliver an article in Fast Company magazine for their client. They issued a Request for Proposal and, naturally, I was one of many that had pitched the business.  But they liked what they read and the next step was a conference call with the client. Not only did the conversation with the agency’s client change about the scope of work, but now the client was pushing towards a “pay for performance” agreement. While I have rarely worked in this scheme of things, I was willing to listen to what he had in mind.

Now, the opportunity has been placed on hold.  But it gives me time to think.  Would you work under these conditions?  I know I bring value to the table.  It’s a gamble at best.  It’s like playing roulette.  If the ball falls on my number, I get paid.  And by the same token, I only collect a payday if I deliver the article in Fast Company.

But what about the time I spend researching and reaching out to editorial staff?  Isn’t that worth something?  Would you work for nothing with hopes that “well, it could be a big payday?”  It’s like playing the lottery.

Suppose I do deliver a placement.  Now, the question becomes “is the client happy?”  Is it the type of article he hoped for?  Or is it another opportunity to push off paying you what you rightfully deserve and earned?

Those in the industry are fully aware that there are no guarantees in public relations.  You want a guarantee – buy an ad.  But public relations can help shape opinions, is every bit as important as other disciplines in the marketing mix and helps build credibility.

Whether you’re an intern or an experienced professional, don’t get caught up in these “one-sided” situations. Time is money and you are worth something.  Determine what it is and stick to your guns.  Would they work for little or nothing for the opportunity to strike it big?  I don’t think so.

4 thoughts on “Trying to pull a fast (company) one

  1. I am not surprised at the waste of everyone’s time described in this blog post. Any company that needs an RFP for a simple story placement doesn’t know the first thing about media relations. Please put this company and its RFP “on hold” permanently.

  2. Janet,
    Things change all the time. The agency’s client calls the shots and this is what they thought they wanted. To answer your question, though, the answer is no. This is a rare instance but there are agencies out there who guarantee placements and you pay accordingly. I have worked under both scenarios. By working on an hourly or project basis, you have continuity and can get a lot accomplished. By working under a “pay for placement” guise you either produce or you don’t get paid.
    In effect, the agency and their client wanted to make sure they had someone in place that they could rely on to get them that coverage. Interestingly, they have backed off — at least for the time being.