Are You Getting Bang For Your PR Buck?

When I hold media release writing courses I always ask the delegates to send me examples of their work beforehand for ‘workshopping’ during the course.

I also ask my friends and colleagues in the media to send me both good and bad examples they receive on a daily basis.

During last week’s course one delegate sent along releases that her company’s PR company had produced for them and which she felt weren’t quite up to scratch. Understatement of the year…

Firstly they were way too long and surely by now PR people know that no editor will read more than the first paragraph let alone two to three pages of waffle.

Secondly the grammar was so bad it physically hurt, no… scarred actually.

A poor service

I asked the person concerned just what they were paying this PR company for this work and whether she felt overall they were doing a good job. Her reply was, no, she didn’t think they were, as in the last year they’d only managed to secure three interviews with media and that their releases were like the ones she’d shown me – really poor.

Now I know there’s a lot of PR people who at this moment are going to raise their fists in the air and cry, hey, three media interviews are worth a lot of money. And yes, I won’t disagree, but then again it depends on the media concerned. This company has a highly specialised product – in fact as an international brand they stand alone in their field in South Africa. When I mentioned various media that I felt they should have been approached she just raised her eyebrows and shook her head. Enough said.

As to the amount being paid it was R60,000 per month. Not a lot by some retainer standards but nevertheless a lot for doing little – and at a substandard level.

Some questions

This of course comes back to the old question of just how do you a) measure such returns and b) set these amounts in the first place.Around the table at the same training were people just entering the difficult and sometimes treacherous world of media relations. They were eager to learn just how to connect with media effectively as they wanted to make sure they offered their clients value for money. When I mentioned various television and radio programmes – ones that aren’t normal viewing, especially for the paler people, they admitted to knowing nothing about them.

When I showed them custom published magazines that cater for the rich and famous – people with lots of ready money for their clients’ goods, again there was much shaking of heads.

This is what it boils down to… Does your PR company really know their media? Mostly – not! This is because outside of using their Media List (and no one at this training had this invaluable resource; they hadn’t even thought of actually turning on their television and looking at what talk shows were out there, especially on SABC and e.tv.

Some answers

So what is the answer? Either get someone in-house to do an in-depth search of print and electronic media in your field or make sure the people you’re paying each month are exhausting every avenue open to your product/service. And then check on how they’re actually approaching these media. Endless bombarding of useless releases won’t do it. A proper media roll-out plan over say six months to a year will have far better results. Setting up meetings between the company and the appropriate media – though hard sometimes always pays results.

I’m not saying for one minute that there aren’t PR companies who do a fine job – but if you speak to the media, you’ll discover they’re few and far between.

Lastly check the following:

  • Are they sending out one press release to all media – a definite no no…
  • Do they have someone who even has the remotest sense of what a hard news piece looks like to write their releases?
  • Do they have a complete understanding of your product/service?
  • Are they giving you in-depth feedback each month on their activities?
  • FINALLY – could you not do a better job yourself???

On this last note you might be surprised to find out how many media would rather deal with the organisation directly.