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PR: no media coverage, no fee?

I just received a press release from a PR agency offering a ‘new’ business model: coverage in the media or you don’t pay.

Now, I know this isn’t really that new because last year I blogged when Sally Romano from Brisbane agency Publicity Queen did exactly the same, causing quite a furore, especially among fellow PR professionals.

So what do we think in 2010? Is this an innovative way to charge for PR services or does it devalue what you do? Personally, I’m concerned that only charging clients when you get them media coverage misses out on all the other aspects of PR which are not as obviously or easily measurable.

Today’s press release came from Jothy Hughes at N O W! Communications: “Free PR for any company in Australia! Until I get you results…”

It states monthly retainers will be non-existent and: “There’ll be no fluffy reports, no mention of ‘this coverage is in the pipeline’ and no timesheets.”

N O W! Communications will get a client coverage on TV or radio, in newspapers or magazines and if they don’t, the client won’t have to pay for their time.

Hughes, who is ex-Markson Sparks and calls himself a mediaoligist, adds: “Small companies who haven’t used PR before, can try PR for the first time and they won’t lose out on start-up costs, they will just pay when coverage appears.”

This year, Dynamic Business employed Red PR to help us with the magazine relaunch and working with them was a real eye opener into the value of good, professional public relations. It also made me realise it is about so much more than just mentions in magazines and on the radio, great as they can be. Recently, Red’s MD, Fleur Madden-Topley, blogged on the fact that PR is one of the only services that doesn’t charge for its time.

When I contacted Hughes and asked him if his model was the same as Publicity Queen’s, he said it was similar but the difference was he didn’t guarantee results. He added: “I simply try and get coverage for clients, who in particular aren’t happy with monthly retainers because they don’t see enough return on investment. If I get them coverage they pay me, if I don’t, they don’t pay me. I’ll never push a journalist into writing a story because I am desperate for money and will simply do my normal pitch.

“So far, my response has been wonderful. Clients, particularly smaller ones, love the fact that they don’t have to outlay large sums of money up front. Often my work is simply project work, because a client just wants a specific piece of coverage.”

So, what do you think?