May 04

Pay per placement cheapens the public relations model

May 4 - News outlets Good friend and erstwhile client Julie Farin called my attention to a recent blog entry from a 'PR firm' called Ink, Inc. Pay per placement is a flawed way to measure and charge for public relations services. To begin with, they're not practicing public relations. They're doing media relations. Pure media by the pound. So, from that perspective the Ink, Inc. folks don't understand that comparing hourly and monthly billing rates with pay per placement is like comparing apples with oranges.

Ink, Inc. also claims that the standard billing model is a 'game' played by larger agencies. They say, and I quote, 'The game comes in the recording of the time actually spent doing client business, including writing timesheets, and is often the most creative thing one does weekly.' That's pure BS.

What the Ink, Inc. people don't, or won't, get is that public relations is far more than mere media placements. It includes everything from strategic positioning and crisis counseling to helping a client organization develop corporate social responsibility programs and effectively communicate in the new social media world. That sort of work demands high level counseling that should be tracked, and billed, on an hourly basis. To do otherwise is to cheapen and demean the work being done by top public relations professionals.

I'm a big believer in live and let live. If these guys want to charge a gullible client on a payment-by-placement basis, then I say go for it (but, what do you base your rates on? Corresponding advertising dollars? If so, that too, is ersatz). But, please, don't confuse prospective clients by suggesting larger and more respected firms are playing some sort of billing shell game. It's unfair and untrue.