The PR Guarantee Debate

Last week, the PR industry was put in the spotlight with Jen Bishop’s blog ‘Media coverage or your PR for free?’

I understand Jen’s concerns about where she sits with the whole ‘guaranteeing PR coverage for clients or they get it for free’ debate.  However, I don’t think she should feel pressured to publish an article because she knows that if she doesn’t the PR company may not get paid.  Whether the PR company gets paid or not is not the concern of the journalist – they have other things to worry about like getting a great quality magazine out on time! If it is a relevant, newsworthy story that fits within the magazine and adds value to its readers, pursue the story otherwise leave it be.

Personally I don’t feel comfortable with offering such a guarantee to potential clients.  What other service gives you such incredible guarantees at their own expense? Can you imagine signing up to a slimming program or gym and being told that you if you don’t get results within three months, you’ll get it all free.  Or signing on to a dating website and getting your money back if all your dates are duds.

It would be lovely though if you could do your supermarket shopping and get your money back because your kids refused to eat their veggies and your roast overcooked so you didn’t end up getting value for money.

The main reason I don’t think this strategy works is that at the end of the three months you may think you have achieved great results and the client is not happy. Perhaps the client hasn’t appeared on A Current Affair as they’d hoped or their competition had a better photo included in the feature article that they were part of.  They are disgruntled and don’t want to pay for your service and feel they have a right to demand their money back because of the guarantee.

PR is certainly a more difficult marketing tool for business owners and marketers to get their head around because at an initial meeting you cannot sit down and tell the client exactly what results they can expect.  However if the client trusts that you will represent them in the correct way, that you will treat journalists the way they need to be treated in order to gain cut through and lets you get on with your job without petty guarantees, the results they receive will be extremely effective and will save on big advertising costs.

Have you engaged in a PR campaign where the return on investment was well worth the lack of guarantee?  I’d love to hear about it.

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