Tag Archive for: hiring a PR agency

When the economy is unpredictable, it’s difficult to plan. Yet, plan you must. Even when you love your PR and marketing agency, during these times, it’s tempting to cut marketing and PR budgets. I know both sides of this fence. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 75% of my career, including during 9/11, The Great Recession, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having witnessed the fallout from slashed budgets, I’ve learned that taking your foot off the gas doesn’t slow the engine. It kills it. You can’t eliminate marketing and increase sales. What you DO need to do is shift marketing strategies. These 4 ways to save on your agency budget will ensure you gain or maintain valuable market share while reducing marketing and PR agency fees

If you like your marketing or PR agency, keep them. You can negotiate with your existing agency and hiring a new agency has hidden costs.  Eliminating a well-oiled, top-rated agency will cost you productivity and results when you need it most. If things are going well, check out our advice from leading agency owners about reducing your agency budgets. If you’re hiring a new agency, these tips will help you get off to a great start and a budget that allows for growth while you work efficiently with your new agency.

 

1. Content: Make It Sticky

When times are good, brands with ambitious goals do whatever they can to get meaningful results faster. But if you’re reducing budgets, then you should focus on the things that last longer. As a colleague of mine once said, “I don’t know why everyone wants to go viral. I want my content to be cancer. I want it to stick around and be hard to get rid of.” This is the mindset to be in when you’re trying to reduce costs.

There are two types of media that stick around forever: owned media and earned media. Your owned media is any channel you control, where create 100% of the content, like your blog or your email marketing. Your earned media appears on channels you don’t control or create, think magazine articles, and (organic) reviews.

Blog posts and earned media are the super glue of sticky marketing and PR levers. Because they DO last so long, and they are customer-facing, these are excellent areas to focus your PR agency on. The ROI will pay dividends now and in the future. 

But longevity is only one benefit of this content, repurposing is another. For example, blog posts that are listicles are excellent SEO boosters, and you can use a listicle to generate many social media posts, same with an article that includes your product.

You want your stickiest content to be the best quality. If you’re reducing your budgets in other areas, now is not the time to hire an untested blogger referred to you by your nephew. Now is the time to focus your budget on doing what you do well. Very well.

Highly useful, sticky content is the most valuable and should be a budget priority.

2. Strategically Reduce the Scope

Chances are your agency is providing you with a suite of services. Instead of eliminating high-value output, focus your budget on those items to reduce your scope.

Take a deeper look at what your agency did this year that worked for you. How did they excel? While you’re asking yourself this question, think about it in the “Make it Sticky” content, but also in the areas where narrowing in on the scope would provide outsized value.

One way to secure high-value PR is product-driven PR and bringing thought leadership and awards programs in-house, or vice-versa. 

Another idea, instead of working with 15 different micro-influencers, you work with one on a strategic year-long campaign. Maybe your branding company could produce long-form content only and you can craft social media posts in-house.

Instead of a campaign every quarter, work with your agency to develop one exceptionally solid, well-thought-out campaign throughout the year and focus your efforts on making that campaign exceptional. This brings me to my final recommendation. 

Another area that can save you money is fewer meetings with your agency. While meetings are important, especially early in the relationship, this is one area that could drive some savings if you’ve been with your agency for a while. 

3. Plan Ahead

Nothing is more expensive than last-minute. If you’re reducing your budget, planning can save you a lot of money. For example, if you’re planning on a video shoot, secure your videographers and editors well in advance with a solid deposit and you’ll find it easier to negotiate the rate.

The same goes for your agency contract. Sign early regardless of whether it’s a new-to-you agency or one you’ve had for a while. Signing early gives you an edge in negotiation. If you like your agency and you will commit to a longer term, you’ll be able to command better rates, and even lock in “economic downturn” rates for two years.

Press releases can be purchased in bulk as well. So if you’re planning on several announcements, if you buy in advance, you can save thousands of dollars. 

4. Strategy: When They Zig, You Should Zag

To save money and get more bang for your buck, redefine your calendar. Shy away from the dates and times of the year when your competitor is most likely to do something, and instead select a campaign period when you can own the conversation.

Alternatively, re-thing your share of voice KPI. When dominance is your key strategy, you want to track it against your biggest aspirational competitors, but if simply staying present is your goal, track your share of voice against a competitor nipping at your heels, one who is your peer, and one who is aspirational. For your aspirational competitors, your strategy should be to cede some of your share of voice so you can squeeze in on your competitor’s territory. For your peers, you want to maintain equal, if not better, footing and for the one nipping at your heels, you want to own the conversation so they don’t squeeze in on yours.

5. Maximize Partnerships and Internal Initiatives

Now is a great time to double down on successful partnerships, or find new ways to align for new partnerships. Be creative in the ways you align, and you may be able to create a news worthy story just by creating a collaboration. Another way to maximize your budget is to turn your storytelling focus on highly valued stories the media is already writing about, like purpose-driven initiatives. These types of stories are much easier to get a lift on than the traditional “thought leadership” strategy that most of your competitors will flock to.

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are over 500 ways to screw up PR. I’m going to be honest with you – I have a lot of conversations with people who say they hired an agency and got nothing, or not what they were promised. The consistent takeaway for these folks is often “PR doesn’t work.” You can imagine my skepticism when people say that because, without exception, we know it does. We have launched brands, driven record sales for brands, and sent them through IPO. But it’s totally worth diving into a few of the reasons PR doesn’t work, with one caveat, it’s RARELY just one of these things.

 

PR Agency Mismatch

Perhaps one of the most important keys to success is agency fit. The most successful relationships align on experience level, ambitions, and cost. Let’s dive into that a little more.
Experience level. Some stories, some products, and some movements are just harder to pitch. If you’re one of those companies, you probably know it deep in your heart. Does that mean you won’t get any PR? No, it means you need to find agencies who either have direct experience telling stories like yours, OR you need to have an agency whose storytellers are seasoned enough to know what lessons they’ve learned and how to apply them now.

Ambitions. If your ambition is to double your sales, then the brand commitment needs to match that, and no single one lever can change sales overnight. It’s also important that you weigh the time-money continuum here. The faster something gets done, the more upfront work it takes.

Yet, if you say “we want to double our sales in 3 years,” it could cost you more than 3X, even if it feels cheaper on a monthly basis. So be clear on what it will take to meet your objective and be sure you’re attacking that aim from all fronts which you control.

If you’re a DTC brand, make sure your SEO and PR teams are operating together. If you’re a consumer tech brand, make sure you’re tapping into trends with your social media. If you’re a CPG brand, make sure the rest of your branding (internal and external) matches the values your product projects.

Cost. PR cost and ambitions are closely tied, because time and cost are deeply connected. There are PR agencies that are cheap, and you will find that some PR agencies are extraordinarily expensive. I would say if saving money is your biggest ambition, then maybe PR isn’t right for you. PR is a lot like building a house and no one ever advises you to pick the cheapest contractor.

If your budget for PR is less than you would pay an executive assistant, then you’re probably undershooting your goals. Whenever someone tells me they hired a firm and got nothing, I usually find that they hired a firm and were the cheapest client that the firm had, OR they hired a scary cheap firm. There’s value-driven pricing and then there’s scary cheap. Learn the difference.

There are only two ways to get scary cheap: hire inexperienced people, or spend no time on the account. That’s it. That’s the only way scary cheap PR agencies work. You’ll get a sense of which one you’ll experience when you meet the team. A seasoned team won’t be spending a lot of time on the account. If the team is inexperienced, then they’ll spend a lot of time learning on your dime. That’s a signal you should watch for.

Your Agency isn’t REALLY a PR Agency

Sometimes agencies try to be all things to everyone and offer every marketing, branding, advertising, and PR service under the moon. That’s a REALLY difficult thing to do.

PR agencies absolutely overlap with other agencies regularly.

There are parts of what we do that a branding agency will also do – like planning word-of-mouth opportunities or creating publicity stunts. Sometimes a branding agency will also create content for their clients, or surveys. That’s also something that PR agencies do-both can usually do them equally well depending on the purpose of the content. But where branding agencies and PR agencies are separate is media outreach, journalist relations, and understanding of the media. And candidly, very few PR agencies have the talent to develop a well-rounded brand from a visual standpoint.

Unbelievably, I’ve seen “entrepreneurial coaches” pitch themselves as PR experts. I think these people understand a lot about self-promotion, and believe me, that’s a true skill, but they rarely really understand media relations outside of sending a press release. Which isn’t the reason you send a press release.

Ad agencies and PR agencies have very little in common. If your ad agency says they can also handle your PR (or vice-versa), that’s typically a red flag.

SEO agencies aren’t PR agencies either. Now, as a digitally savvy PR agency, for our bespoke clients, we absolutely dive into the SEO of our clients so we can incorporate keywords and important links. But let me assure you, we are NOT an SEO agency. Nor is your SEO agency a PR firm. Don’t confuse the two. Unless you’re working for one of the world’s largest agencies, there are very few exceptions to the fact that the two rarely go together.

 

Collaboration or Miscommunication

The root of this is usually either the personalities just didn’t fit, or there wasn’t bandwidth for consistent communication on either side. A truly bespoke PR program is highly intimate and collaborative. If that isn’t happening, you will find results suffer. Another aspect of this is executive or spokesperson availability – when the executives aren’t making time for journalists on deadline, then the success rate falls dramatically, AND your PR team is reluctant to pitch him/her to their best contacts because relationships matter and no one client is worth burning a long time media partner over. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

The media, and especially journalists, are under extreme stress these days. When clients don’t get back to us immediately about opportunities, that makes it really difficult for us to take advantage of the most interesting and timely media opportunities. PR agencies often receive inquiries from the media, but those inquiries have tight deadlines, sometimes even less than a day. So if your PR team is promoting you 2-3 times to get back to them for a query, that’s a red flag.

 

Since there are over 500 ways to screw up PR, that’s the reason we structure our programs the way we do. If you’ve ever talked to us, you know, we take our partnerships exceptionally seriously – our bespoke PR results and client reviews prove it. If you’re in the middle of hiring a firm, and you’re having a hard time differentiating, call us. We’ll give you our unbiased opinion of the top PR agencies you’ve identified.

What’s the difference between PR vs publicity? At first glance, they look the same. Publicity is a specific tactic to attract media coverage, it might be good or bad coverage. Public relations is a holistic brand-building, loyalty building and trust-building strategy that includes positive media coverage.

Should you choose publicity or PR?

Most brands do not subscribe to the “all media coverage is good media coverage” philosophy and want ONLY positive media coverage, which is why most brands choose PR. PR refers to the deliberate efforts that organizations make to build and maintain positive relationships with the public. Public relations will create a path toward media coverage including key messaging, brand positioning, making the news, jumping in on breaking news, and strategizing positive company announcements. A PR strategy may also include a crisis communication plan which is important for any consumer brand, but especially DTC or CPG brands. PR is an investment in your brand’s reputation. If your business goal is to be the #1 brand against your competitors or to secure investment that launches you into hypergrowth, then you’ll definitely want to choose PR.

Publicity is a narrowly focused goal, any form of media coverage or exposure for an organization or individual. And it might be OK for a brand that just wants to get into gift guides, for example. That would be an example of publicity without the added benefit of public relations. If your key messages are solid, and you don’t need any additional help building the brand’s trust or loyalty, or your long-term reputation isn’t important, then publicity may be an option for you.

Long Term or Short Term Media Coverage?

Publicity is great for a blast of short-term coverage. Something consistent with a calendar event, or a word-of-mouth campaign with a celebrity for a product launch. Publicity is also great if your brand is willing to do “anything” for media coverage. Stunts in Times Square or the Santa Monica pier often get coverage simply because of the location and the unexpected commotion. That’s publicity. Another example of publicity is an April Fools stunt.

If you’re looking for consistent press coverage regardless of whether you have a product launch or an activation, then you definitely want PR. PR will enable your brand to build trust with your audience, while also building loyalty with your existing customers.

Rinse & Repeat or Bespoke?

Publicity tactics are very similar to one another. Your publicity in gift guides, for example, will also share coverage with other products and possibly even competitors. Think of a publicity campaign as a short-term boost to secure coverage, regardless of quality. If you simply need additional exposure for a specific period of time in order to get noticed by potential customers or clients, then publicity may be a cost-effective solution.

In contrast, public relations will develop custom strategies to build and manage your reputation, reach key audiences and achieve your business objectives through strategic messaging and tailored PR campaigns. With the right PR firm on your side, you can effectively reach your target audiences, build positive relationships with key stakeholders, and stand out from the crowd in today’s competitive marketplace.

 

Many people think public relations (PR) and publicity are synonymous, but there is actually a clear distinction between the two terms. If you’re interested in discussing the difference with Avaans, please contact us, we will help you decide based on your business goals and budget, which type of media coverage is best for you.

Question: Do you need a PR Agency for media coverage?

 

This is a totally fair question. The answer is no.

But, if you don’t need a PR agency for media coverage, then why are there so many PR agencies and what value do they bring? Here are 3 reasons why hiring an agency helps you get media coverage. In her early years at Spanx, Sara Blakely famously used PR and not a single paid advertisement, and she did much of it herself early on.

PR strategy and emotional intelligence in pitching

Many people will tell you that PR agencies thrive off their media relationships. And this is true, particularly within certain B2B industries. But especially within consumer media outlets, the people writing are constantly shifting. Media is in a state of re-invention with reduced budgets, and many media writers and journalists are actually finding freelancing to be more beneficial. So while we’ve certainly developed deep relationships with journalists, it’s not uncommon for them to leave the beat or move to freelance. And it’s the keeping track of these relationships and their new contact info, along with relevant beats, that set the agency relationship apart and helps a PR agency for media coverage. We employ tools to help us quickly find the right people at the right time. We can also quickly find recent articles across a wide range of outlets, and this helps us get a better, more strategic sense of the likelihood that a particular journalist is interested in our story.

PR firms know the true target audience

What does a media pitch look like? You just email the journalist and tell them about your company, right? And then they email you back and you get media coverage. That’s how it works, right? Not quite. You don’t ACTUALLY need a PR agency for media coverage, right? Technically true, but journalists don’t view their job as helping you get media coverage. The journalist’s job is to tell a well-rounded story. Increasingly, the journalist’s job includes ensuring that the article gets eyeballs. When you’re talking to journalists, their needs must come first; that’s why it’s called media relations. At Avaans, we spend a lot of time understanding the shifting needs of journalists, we understand how to talk with journalists and how to ensure your company stays in front of the right media outlets at the right time for media coverage. Understanding how to support media outlets and their journalists is part is an effective reputation management strategy.

 

PR firms bring an outside perspective

If you have an internal and separate communications person,  meetings and communication strategy along with internal comms likely fill their days. That’s a mighty big job already. The demands of that role make it nearly impossible to do consistent media outreach. But even if they do, an agency supports the brand with something else: an outside perspective. At Avaans, we often provide a brand insight that changes business outcomes. Because we view the brand with fresh eyes, we can identify gaps in coverages based on your business goals and inform you on emerging trends that are relevant to your PR strategy. If you do not have an internal comms person or your CMO doubles as your communication executive, then your CMO definitely wants a PR firm to provide PR insight. PR is part of marketing, but it has distinct differences and opportunities and a good PR firm like Avaans can provide insight into ways to combine marketing and PR.  

 

The biggest brands in the world count on brand equity as a major part of their valuation; investing in PR makes brand value grow faster.

Learn more about our work and how we have built value for our clients.

Tag Archive for: hiring a PR agency

PR pricing that’s based on your needs, not ours.

Whether you’re a startup or post IPO, every business has different objectives and we’re here to make sure your PR aligns with your business strategy.

We call this Strategy-Based Pricing and it is our client-first way to ensure that your business’ PR scales with your strategic objectives.

We’re fearless in designing strategies to take you into the next phase of your growth. Our team of seasoned experts and creative specialists is ready to give you the competitive advantage you deserve.

If you’re ready to find out more about pricing, please schedule an introduction call with us on our Contact Us page.

WILL YOU:

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4 Ways to Screw Up a Media Interview

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It doesn't matter whether your interview is with the Wall Street Journal or a tiny vertical publication with a niche audience. You, the company representative, the thought leader, really do set the tone for the the interview. You control first…
Claybourne 420 Product Drop LA Weekly

When the economy is unpredictable, it’s difficult to plan. Yet, plan you must. Even when you love your PR and marketing agency, during these times, it’s tempting to cut marketing and PR budgets. I know both sides of this fence. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 75% of my career, including during 9/11, The Great Recession, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having witnessed the fallout from slashed budgets, I’ve learned that taking your foot off the gas doesn’t slow the engine. It kills it. You can’t eliminate marketing and increase sales. What you DO need to do is shift marketing strategies. These 4 ways to save on your agency budget will ensure you gain or maintain valuable market share while reducing marketing and PR agency fees

If you like your marketing or PR agency, keep them. You can negotiate with your existing agency and hiring a new agency has hidden costs.  Eliminating a well-oiled, top-rated agency will cost you productivity and results when you need it most. If things are going well, check out our advice from leading agency owners about reducing your agency budgets. If you’re hiring a new agency, these tips will help you get off to a great start and a budget that allows for growth while you work efficiently with your new agency.

 

1. Content: Make It Sticky

When times are good, brands with ambitious goals do whatever they can to get meaningful results faster. But if you’re reducing budgets, then you should focus on the things that last longer. As a colleague of mine once said, “I don’t know why everyone wants to go viral. I want my content to be cancer. I want it to stick around and be hard to get rid of.” This is the mindset to be in when you’re trying to reduce costs.

There are two types of media that stick around forever: owned media and earned media. Your owned media is any channel you control, where create 100% of the content, like your blog or your email marketing. Your earned media appears on channels you don’t control or create, think magazine articles, and (organic) reviews.

Blog posts and earned media are the super glue of sticky marketing and PR levers. Because they DO last so long, and they are customer-facing, these are excellent areas to focus your PR agency on. The ROI will pay dividends now and in the future. 

But longevity is only one benefit of this content, repurposing is another. For example, blog posts that are listicles are excellent SEO boosters, and you can use a listicle to generate many social media posts, same with an article that includes your product.

You want your stickiest content to be the best quality. If you’re reducing your budgets in other areas, now is not the time to hire an untested blogger referred to you by your nephew. Now is the time to focus your budget on doing what you do well. Very well.

Highly useful, sticky content is the most valuable and should be a budget priority.

2. Strategically Reduce the Scope

Chances are your agency is providing you with a suite of services. Instead of eliminating high-value output, focus your budget on those items to reduce your scope.

Take a deeper look at what your agency did this year that worked for you. How did they excel? While you’re asking yourself this question, think about it in the “Make it Sticky” content, but also in the areas where narrowing in on the scope would provide outsized value.

One way to secure high-value PR is product-driven PR and bringing thought leadership and awards programs in-house, or vice-versa. 

Another idea, instead of working with 15 different micro-influencers, you work with one on a strategic year-long campaign. Maybe your branding company could produce long-form content only and you can craft social media posts in-house.

Instead of a campaign every quarter, work with your agency to develop one exceptionally solid, well-thought-out campaign throughout the year and focus your efforts on making that campaign exceptional. This brings me to my final recommendation. 

Another area that can save you money is fewer meetings with your agency. While meetings are important, especially early in the relationship, this is one area that could drive some savings if you’ve been with your agency for a while. 

3. Plan Ahead

Nothing is more expensive than last-minute. If you’re reducing your budget, planning can save you a lot of money. For example, if you’re planning on a video shoot, secure your videographers and editors well in advance with a solid deposit and you’ll find it easier to negotiate the rate.

The same goes for your agency contract. Sign early regardless of whether it’s a new-to-you agency or one you’ve had for a while. Signing early gives you an edge in negotiation. If you like your agency and you will commit to a longer term, you’ll be able to command better rates, and even lock in “economic downturn” rates for two years.

Press releases can be purchased in bulk as well. So if you’re planning on several announcements, if you buy in advance, you can save thousands of dollars. 

4. Strategy: When They Zig, You Should Zag

To save money and get more bang for your buck, redefine your calendar. Shy away from the dates and times of the year when your competitor is most likely to do something, and instead select a campaign period when you can own the conversation.

Alternatively, re-thing your share of voice KPI. When dominance is your key strategy, you want to track it against your biggest aspirational competitors, but if simply staying present is your goal, track your share of voice against a competitor nipping at your heels, one who is your peer, and one who is aspirational. For your aspirational competitors, your strategy should be to cede some of your share of voice so you can squeeze in on your competitor’s territory. For your peers, you want to maintain equal, if not better, footing and for the one nipping at your heels, you want to own the conversation so they don’t squeeze in on yours.

5. Maximize Partnerships and Internal Initiatives

Now is a great time to double down on successful partnerships, or find new ways to align for new partnerships. Be creative in the ways you align, and you may be able to create a news worthy story just by creating a collaboration. Another way to maximize your budget is to turn your storytelling focus on highly valued stories the media is already writing about, like purpose-driven initiatives. These types of stories are much easier to get a lift on than the traditional “thought leadership” strategy that most of your competitors will flock to.

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are over 500 ways to screw up PR. I’m going to be honest with you – I have a lot of conversations with people who say they hired an agency and got nothing, or not what they were promised. The consistent takeaway for these folks is often “PR doesn’t work.” You can imagine my skepticism when people say that because, without exception, we know it does. We have launched brands, driven record sales for brands, and sent them through IPO. But it’s totally worth diving into a few of the reasons PR doesn’t work, with one caveat, it’s RARELY just one of these things.

 

PR Agency Mismatch

Perhaps one of the most important keys to success is agency fit. The most successful relationships align on experience level, ambitions, and cost. Let’s dive into that a little more.
Experience level. Some stories, some products, and some movements are just harder to pitch. If you’re one of those companies, you probably know it deep in your heart. Does that mean you won’t get any PR? No, it means you need to find agencies who either have direct experience telling stories like yours, OR you need to have an agency whose storytellers are seasoned enough to know what lessons they’ve learned and how to apply them now.

Ambitions. If your ambition is to double your sales, then the brand commitment needs to match that, and no single one lever can change sales overnight. It’s also important that you weigh the time-money continuum here. The faster something gets done, the more upfront work it takes.

Yet, if you say “we want to double our sales in 3 years,” it could cost you more than 3X, even if it feels cheaper on a monthly basis. So be clear on what it will take to meet your objective and be sure you’re attacking that aim from all fronts which you control.

If you’re a DTC brand, make sure your SEO and PR teams are operating together. If you’re a consumer tech brand, make sure you’re tapping into trends with your social media. If you’re a CPG brand, make sure the rest of your branding (internal and external) matches the values your product projects.

Cost. PR cost and ambitions are closely tied, because time and cost are deeply connected. There are PR agencies that are cheap, and you will find that some PR agencies are extraordinarily expensive. I would say if saving money is your biggest ambition, then maybe PR isn’t right for you. PR is a lot like building a house and no one ever advises you to pick the cheapest contractor.

If your budget for PR is less than you would pay an executive assistant, then you’re probably undershooting your goals. Whenever someone tells me they hired a firm and got nothing, I usually find that they hired a firm and were the cheapest client that the firm had, OR they hired a scary cheap firm. There’s value-driven pricing and then there’s scary cheap. Learn the difference.

There are only two ways to get scary cheap: hire inexperienced people, or spend no time on the account. That’s it. That’s the only way scary cheap PR agencies work. You’ll get a sense of which one you’ll experience when you meet the team. A seasoned team won’t be spending a lot of time on the account. If the team is inexperienced, then they’ll spend a lot of time learning on your dime. That’s a signal you should watch for.

Your Agency isn’t REALLY a PR Agency

Sometimes agencies try to be all things to everyone and offer every marketing, branding, advertising, and PR service under the moon. That’s a REALLY difficult thing to do.

PR agencies absolutely overlap with other agencies regularly.

There are parts of what we do that a branding agency will also do – like planning word-of-mouth opportunities or creating publicity stunts. Sometimes a branding agency will also create content for their clients, or surveys. That’s also something that PR agencies do-both can usually do them equally well depending on the purpose of the content. But where branding agencies and PR agencies are separate is media outreach, journalist relations, and understanding of the media. And candidly, very few PR agencies have the talent to develop a well-rounded brand from a visual standpoint.

Unbelievably, I’ve seen “entrepreneurial coaches” pitch themselves as PR experts. I think these people understand a lot about self-promotion, and believe me, that’s a true skill, but they rarely really understand media relations outside of sending a press release. Which isn’t the reason you send a press release.

Ad agencies and PR agencies have very little in common. If your ad agency says they can also handle your PR (or vice-versa), that’s typically a red flag.

SEO agencies aren’t PR agencies either. Now, as a digitally savvy PR agency, for our bespoke clients, we absolutely dive into the SEO of our clients so we can incorporate keywords and important links. But let me assure you, we are NOT an SEO agency. Nor is your SEO agency a PR firm. Don’t confuse the two. Unless you’re working for one of the world’s largest agencies, there are very few exceptions to the fact that the two rarely go together.

 

Collaboration or Miscommunication

The root of this is usually either the personalities just didn’t fit, or there wasn’t bandwidth for consistent communication on either side. A truly bespoke PR program is highly intimate and collaborative. If that isn’t happening, you will find results suffer. Another aspect of this is executive or spokesperson availability – when the executives aren’t making time for journalists on deadline, then the success rate falls dramatically, AND your PR team is reluctant to pitch him/her to their best contacts because relationships matter and no one client is worth burning a long time media partner over. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

The media, and especially journalists, are under extreme stress these days. When clients don’t get back to us immediately about opportunities, that makes it really difficult for us to take advantage of the most interesting and timely media opportunities. PR agencies often receive inquiries from the media, but those inquiries have tight deadlines, sometimes even less than a day. So if your PR team is promoting you 2-3 times to get back to them for a query, that’s a red flag.

 

Since there are over 500 ways to screw up PR, that’s the reason we structure our programs the way we do. If you’ve ever talked to us, you know, we take our partnerships exceptionally seriously – our bespoke PR results and client reviews prove it. If you’re in the middle of hiring a firm, and you’re having a hard time differentiating, call us. We’ll give you our unbiased opinion of the top PR agencies you’ve identified.

What’s the difference between PR vs publicity? At first glance, they look the same. Publicity is a specific tactic to attract media coverage, it might be good or bad coverage. Public relations is a holistic brand-building, loyalty building and trust-building strategy that includes positive media coverage.

Should you choose publicity or PR?

Most brands do not subscribe to the “all media coverage is good media coverage” philosophy and want ONLY positive media coverage, which is why most brands choose PR. PR refers to the deliberate efforts that organizations make to build and maintain positive relationships with the public. Public relations will create a path toward media coverage including key messaging, brand positioning, making the news, jumping in on breaking news, and strategizing positive company announcements. A PR strategy may also include a crisis communication plan which is important for any consumer brand, but especially DTC or CPG brands. PR is an investment in your brand’s reputation. If your business goal is to be the #1 brand against your competitors or to secure investment that launches you into hypergrowth, then you’ll definitely want to choose PR.

Publicity is a narrowly focused goal, any form of media coverage or exposure for an organization or individual. And it might be OK for a brand that just wants to get into gift guides, for example. That would be an example of publicity without the added benefit of public relations. If your key messages are solid, and you don’t need any additional help building the brand’s trust or loyalty, or your long-term reputation isn’t important, then publicity may be an option for you.

Long Term or Short Term Media Coverage?

Publicity is great for a blast of short-term coverage. Something consistent with a calendar event, or a word-of-mouth campaign with a celebrity for a product launch. Publicity is also great if your brand is willing to do “anything” for media coverage. Stunts in Times Square or the Santa Monica pier often get coverage simply because of the location and the unexpected commotion. That’s publicity. Another example of publicity is an April Fools stunt.

If you’re looking for consistent press coverage regardless of whether you have a product launch or an activation, then you definitely want PR. PR will enable your brand to build trust with your audience, while also building loyalty with your existing customers.

Rinse & Repeat or Bespoke?

Publicity tactics are very similar to one another. Your publicity in gift guides, for example, will also share coverage with other products and possibly even competitors. Think of a publicity campaign as a short-term boost to secure coverage, regardless of quality. If you simply need additional exposure for a specific period of time in order to get noticed by potential customers or clients, then publicity may be a cost-effective solution.

In contrast, public relations will develop custom strategies to build and manage your reputation, reach key audiences and achieve your business objectives through strategic messaging and tailored PR campaigns. With the right PR firm on your side, you can effectively reach your target audiences, build positive relationships with key stakeholders, and stand out from the crowd in today’s competitive marketplace.

 

Many people think public relations (PR) and publicity are synonymous, but there is actually a clear distinction between the two terms. If you’re interested in discussing the difference with Avaans, please contact us, we will help you decide based on your business goals and budget, which type of media coverage is best for you.

Question: Do you need a PR Agency for media coverage?

 

This is a totally fair question. The answer is no.

But, if you don’t need a PR agency for media coverage, then why are there so many PR agencies and what value do they bring? Here are 3 reasons why hiring an agency helps you get media coverage. In her early years at Spanx, Sara Blakely famously used PR and not a single paid advertisement, and she did much of it herself early on.

PR strategy and emotional intelligence in pitching

Many people will tell you that PR agencies thrive off their media relationships. And this is true, particularly within certain B2B industries. But especially within consumer media outlets, the people writing are constantly shifting. Media is in a state of re-invention with reduced budgets, and many media writers and journalists are actually finding freelancing to be more beneficial. So while we’ve certainly developed deep relationships with journalists, it’s not uncommon for them to leave the beat or move to freelance. And it’s the keeping track of these relationships and their new contact info, along with relevant beats, that set the agency relationship apart and helps a PR agency for media coverage. We employ tools to help us quickly find the right people at the right time. We can also quickly find recent articles across a wide range of outlets, and this helps us get a better, more strategic sense of the likelihood that a particular journalist is interested in our story.

PR firms know the true target audience

What does a media pitch look like? You just email the journalist and tell them about your company, right? And then they email you back and you get media coverage. That’s how it works, right? Not quite. You don’t ACTUALLY need a PR agency for media coverage, right? Technically true, but journalists don’t view their job as helping you get media coverage. The journalist’s job is to tell a well-rounded story. Increasingly, the journalist’s job includes ensuring that the article gets eyeballs. When you’re talking to journalists, their needs must come first; that’s why it’s called media relations. At Avaans, we spend a lot of time understanding the shifting needs of journalists, we understand how to talk with journalists and how to ensure your company stays in front of the right media outlets at the right time for media coverage. Understanding how to support media outlets and their journalists is part is an effective reputation management strategy.

 

PR firms bring an outside perspective

If you have an internal and separate communications person,  meetings and communication strategy along with internal comms likely fill their days. That’s a mighty big job already. The demands of that role make it nearly impossible to do consistent media outreach. But even if they do, an agency supports the brand with something else: an outside perspective. At Avaans, we often provide a brand insight that changes business outcomes. Because we view the brand with fresh eyes, we can identify gaps in coverages based on your business goals and inform you on emerging trends that are relevant to your PR strategy. If you do not have an internal comms person or your CMO doubles as your communication executive, then your CMO definitely wants a PR firm to provide PR insight. PR is part of marketing, but it has distinct differences and opportunities and a good PR firm like Avaans can provide insight into ways to combine marketing and PR.  

 

The biggest brands in the world count on brand equity as a major part of their valuation; investing in PR makes brand value grow faster.

Learn more about our work and how we have built value for our clients.

PR pricing that’s based on your needs, not ours.

Whether you’re a startup or post IPO, every business has different objectives and we’re here to make sure your PR aligns with your business strategy.

We call this Strategy-Based Pricing and it is our client-first way to ensure that your business’ PR scales with your strategic objectives.

We’re fearless in designing strategies to take you into the next phase of your growth. Our team of seasoned experts and creative specialists is ready to give you the competitive advantage you deserve.

If you’re ready to find out more about pricing, please schedule an introduction call with us on our Contact Us page.

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