OUR RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE TITLED: DOES PAYMENT BY RESULTS WORK IN PR?

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I recently came across an article on a PR trade website bemoaning the merits of Pay Per Results PR (or Payment by Results [PBR]). The article concluded that Pay Per Results PR didn’t work – with a plethora of fancy PR professionals from fancy PR firms giving us a little insight into why retainers are the way to go – for both clients and agencies (well, mainly for agencies).

As of 23rd April 2020, we have now officially moved over all of our PR services to Pay Per Results PR; so we no longer charge clients a dime for a press release to be written or sent out – in fact, we don’t charge for any PR activity. Not a dime.

We did that for two reasons – first, it’s the next step in our pledge to be as ‘results-driven’ as possible and second, our Pay Per Results PR Comment Pieces and Reviews were wildly successful; so far this month (April 2020) have made up over a third of our income and we are thrilled.

So on to the rebuttal of this article in question:

1. It is a race to the bottom

A SVP EMEA of Corporate Development (he sounds expensive) at one PR agency thought that Pay Per Results PR was a “race to the bottom” and that the agency would be more focused on short-term gains and quantity versus quality.

A fair assumption, but with our tiered Pay Per Results PR fee guide we do earn exponentially more for wider read and respected publications as well as for backlinks (the backbone of improved SEO). Press release content is written with the client’s wider goals in mind and is sent out to publications who best serve that goal.

As an agency with a over 50+ pick ‘n’ mix services, we also tend to look after several other marketing activities for our clients, so we can ensure everything comes together nicely for maximum impact.

Does sitting in an expensive office overlooking the Thames for a several hours long ‘strategy meeting’ whilst churning out buzzwords really make the output any higher quality or the gains any longer term?

It’s the continued activity of generating published pieces – all hitting the right note – that really helps achieve wider marketing goals (not a pile of pretty reports saying very little). 

2. It’s too risky

A Director of a Specialist Broadcast PR agency (specialist = pricey) deems that only “a desperate agency would accept work on a purely pay-by-results basis.”

She continues, “why should an agency take on all the risk?”

My response here is a simple one – why should the small business client take all the risk?

In the current PR framework – PR agencies get you bucket loads of press – they get paid; PR agencies get you zero press – they get paid. Either way, they’re guaranteed an income.

Where’s the sanity in that?

As for “desperate”, I suppose we are desperate. Desperate for results for our clients, that is. I’d take desperation over complacency any day.

3. It isn’t suitable for PR work

Another PR agency Director likens PRs to lawyers. He goes on to say, “a lot of hard work and valuable expertise loses any kind of value if a result is not secured.”

To be transparent, I like to think I’m a smart cookie – but I’m no law graduate, so why should I be paid like one?

At Sanity Marketing, we’vemadethe Pay Per Results model suitable for PR work. It took 4 years and a lot of staring into space (and plenty of graphics), but we did it.

Once upon a time we paid Black Cab drivers to drive us around London, relying on “The Knowledge” they had painstakingly learnt. Now we have the option to use apps like Uber, with “The Knowledge” replaced by GPS. The result is the same – I get to my destination –so why pay more for the same result?

Black Cab drivers can stomp their feet – but there’s a new way of doing things in their industry – and the golden monopoly they once enjoyed is now having to be shared with businesses offering innovative new ways of doing things.

In the same way, PR is developing. No longer do we drop off press releases to a publication’s office, call on favours from journo mates or take editors out for Ivy lunches. Instead, press releases are written and sent out in the blink of an eye, content is king and journalists munch on Pretsandwiches whilst writing article #35of the day for their now web-based publication (and not just any article, an article rich with the keywords that are trending that day on Google).

PR results are now achieved using different methods (this isn’t the 80’s or an episode of Ab Fab). Results are easily achieved if you know what you’re doing; and if they aren’t – then you’ll have to work just that little bit smarter to get your next invoice paid.

4. It is hard to know what to measure

Another PR bemoans the idea of “having written the most articulate of press releases, which ticked all the editorial boxes, but for whatever reason the story went nowhere. Under PBR you’re not going to get paid, even though it has taken time to be briefed on the story, have it written up and edited, get it approved and then send it out to the target media.Your client would be under no obligation to pay you under PBR, but is it your company’s fault that the story hasn’t been picked up?”

He then goes on to talk about how one would get paid on the basis that press is achieved.

His point is similar to point 2 and 3 – aka – “we don’t want to take the risk / be accountable for results”. And in short, of course they don’t. PR is one of the only industries where results can’t be guaranteed. Why would small businesses want to pay (potentially thousands of pounds) for the blood, sweat and tears of PRs, only to achieve no results. Zero?

As for “hard to measure”, with our fees – we charge per publication, according to its readership, gravitas and whether there is the all-powerful backlink.It’s all packaged up in a very cute table for your ease.

It’s not complicated – it’s PR not ER (although next an expert will suggest PRs are similar to Doctors).

5. It undermines the client/agency relationship

The final PR expert offers, “asking agencies to offer PBR seems to undermine a relationship built on client/consultant trust”.

I couldn’t disagree more. Unless we deliver results (as set by our clients to achieve their wider goals) then we don’t get paid. In essence, we are in this together and we want result for you – not just because we are lovely (we really are) but because that’s how we eat.

Nothing screams trust more than a symbiotic relationship.

So there you have it – an archaic industry rues the day of digital media and curses being held to account. Now, don’t tell the digital marketing industry that we’d looking at doing the same for our Digital Marketing services too or we’ll really be in trouble!

Remember, all our PR services are Pay Per Results – reach out to see if we can help you here!

Jordan Baker

CEO