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Media coverage or your PR for free?

I’m all for reassessing how you do business in the light of a recession and maybe offering your customers something different/more affordable that will work better for them in these challenging times.

Today I received a story pitch from a PR agency (not surprisingly) about the PR agency itself (a bit different). It was about its decision to work for clients for free unless media coverage was achieved for them in 3 months. It’s a bit like those ‘no win, no fee’ legal firms and it went like this:

“Australia’s favourite PR agency, (name here) is helping businesses in these tough economic times by launching a national marketing stimulus package that guarantees media coverage or they work for free.
In a bid to encourage Australian entrepreneurial growth companies to make continued investments in marketing, (name here) guarantees to secure media exposure for clients in newspapers, magazines, television or radio within three months of being engaged or they will work for free until this goal is achieved.”

While I see what they’re doing and admire it as a business tactic, as a journalist, I’m not sure it sits well with me, which is why I didn’t agree to run it. The media is—or should be—independent, so you cannot guarantee anything to your clients in terms of coverage. And as an editor, the thought of having stories pushed on me because the PR’s not going to get paid unless they’re published within 3 months, makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Perhaps I’m overreacting and this is in fact a very clever strategy. I’m interested in your opinions. What are other PR companies doing to stay in business when it’s often one of the first things companies drop when times are tough?

I ran it past another PR contact who said: “The only way you can ‘guarantee’ coverage is if you are placing an ad.”

I deliberately haven’t named the agency in question but if they want to ‘fess up, I’d be happy to see their comments below.

What do you think?

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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