Friday, April 27, 2007

A well written blog post: The pitfalls of PR RFPs

For those in the business, I'm sure many can relate to this blog posting. Check it out:


Anyone who has ever read a government RFP on www.merx.com, can I'm sure...relate!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Can't afford Public Relations, Can I?

I recently came across a study done by Tom Brabender, a PR consultant with Spread the News Public Relations. His findings from a survey of organizations on their impressions of the costs of PR were very interesting:

11% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $10,000+ per month
32% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $5,000-$10,000 per month
39% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $3,000-$5,000 per month
12% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost $1,000-$3,000 per month
6% - Thought a professional PR campaign would cost less than $1,000 per month

The truth is -- you can get a publicity/PR campaign in all of those price ranges. What you get for your money and how effective the campaign will be is the real question. It is true that the more you pay the more you get. But getting the most publicity/PR exposure doesn't mean you have to get the most expensive PR agency or specialist.

A good rule of thumb is to align yourself with a PR business that best reflects your business size. Most times their rates will be in line with your prospective PR budget. If you are a small business owner with two employees, you need not hire a high-dollar PR agency with dozens of employees. Find a PR business whose office size and capabilities closely resemble your business.

Signing up with the big firm doesn't mean you'll necessarily get an experienced associate working on your campaign. So are you getting what you are paying for? As someone who worked in a larger agency, I can tell you that the general breakdown of fees usually works like this:

Interns/Junior Executives - bill at $75 / hour (Very little, if any professional experience)
Account Executives - bill at $100 - $125 / hour (1-3 years of professional experience)
Senior Account Executives - bill at $125 - $200 / hour (Multiple years of professional experience. Agency decision makers.)

Compare those prices to many small PR shops or individual PR specialists (like Action Strategies). Many have started their own PR businesses after years of experience in the industry and typically charge $50 - $100 per hour to professionally launch and maintain your campaign. Many times, you can get a seasoned PR veteran who will work directly with you and your staff for cheaper than the "Intern/Junior" executive rate at a downtown firm.

However, one word of advice -- when choosing a smaller firm or individual to do your PR, make sure they have the same tools that the bigger agencies do: updated media lists/contacts; personalized media distribution capabilities; professional clipping/tracking services to get copies of each of your media placements (articles, tapes from TV/radio shows) as well as the intangibles of expert communication/media relations skills and professional pitching prowess. If they are cheaper, but don't have all the tools to help you in the best manner possible, you are probably better off spending a little extra money to make sure your campaign is launched and maintained correctly.

The major benefits of hiring a professional (individual PR specialist or PR firm) to launch your campaign are:

Proper Campaign Implementation - Improperly composed or poorly pitched campaigns are the major downfall of many PR efforts. Poorly written, over-commercialized media releases; uncalculated, misdirected mass e-mailing of the release pitch; no follow-up media relations/media request fulfillment; etc.. Your first impression to the media is a lasting one - make sure it's a good one.
Media Contacts - Most PR agencies have established multiple media contacts over several years that can lead to much better and more numerous media placements for your campaign. Let their foot in the door benefit you.
Efficiency and Effectiveness - PR specialists/agencies generate publicity full time, 8-12 hours per day and know the ins and outs, shortcuts and secrets to getting the job done better and quicker. Sure you could hang your own drywall or do your own plumbing, but do you have the tools, the time and the expertise to make it cost effective? I always tell my clients, "You do what you do well, I'll do what I do well and we'll collectively move this business further up the ladder."

There is one caveat when it comes to choosing a professional PR agency or individual to work with - signing up for a higher priced campaign doesn't necessarily mean you will get better results than a cheaper campaign. The inverse is true as well. Over the past year or so, many "low-cost PR/publicity services" have begun to pop up all over the Internet. Ones that promise to write and launch a press release for as low as $99. They are low in cost - because frankly many are low in quality. Bigger is not necessarily better, and cheap does not always mean a good bargain.

If you have the time, tools and talent to launch and maintain your own campaign, you should definitely do so. If not - there are a number of public relations/publicity firms, specialists and services out there. Research to find the one whose services and fees match your business plan. Once business owners, entrepreneurs, and inventors learn more about their options when it comes to launching a PR campaign -- many find that they can't afford NOT to have one.

(The above article was taken and amended from an original article by Todd Brabender.)
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultancy. Make sure to contact him for advise on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing a public relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Come check me out on Facebook

You'll need to permit me for a moment to deliniate away from talking shop for a while! I've taken the next step in social media. For many of my friends, we've found that keeping up to track on what we've been doing is a challenge. For the personal side of my life, I've opened up a facebook account. If you're inclined to becoming a ''friend'', come check out my profile.


4 Great Tips To Spotting & Hiring a Marcomm Consultant

I came across a great article recently and wanted to present an excerpt. It talks about some of the crucial qualities marketing communications consultants should have:

Passion. If you have a burning passion for the advertising industry, that is a major plus. The consultant is going to need every ounce of that passion to get through the down days. When nothing seems to go right, when every client seems to be an ogre in disguise, when the simplest words become potential libel suits; that is when you dig deep. If there was no passion, this is the time the AE will look at you and say, “Boss, thank you, but no thank you.”, and proceeds to open his own “char kway teow” stall (a local culinary delight from Singapore).

Hunger. That is the drive needed to go for each and every project. Couple this with the passion and you have one incredible, committed consultant.

Is passion and hunger enough? I am passionately hungry for a piece of home-made pecan pie. You know, the crusty crust, the gooey pecan; just like mother used to make? Well, I have the passion for sure; and the hunger, you wouldn’t believe it. But no pecan pie for me. I have no idea how to make one!

Knowledge. A good consultant must have at least a rudimentary knowledge of marketing and marketing communications. This can be learnt - must be learnt. The role of the consultant is the liaison between the marketing/advertising agencies creative brains and the client’s needs. Without a basic understanding of marketing and marketing communications, there is no way that he/she is going to be able to understand the marketing brief. Worse, this is the person who is supposed to interpret it and then work with the creative team to execute it. Will you let a 10-year old bake your wedding cake? Why not let him coordinate your entire wedding?

The brains, the passion, the drive and the knowledge form the basics. But there is another element which is important:

People Skill
. Sounds harmless? Imagine managing demanding clients with egoistic “creative” minds and at the same time, trying to meet deadlines, budgets and a hundred other deliverables. The consultant has to be the consumate statesman, able to deal with various personalities and be comfortable in both friendly and hostile situations.

Many people do not realise that a consultant is also a project manager. Sure, the larger agencies have a “traffic” department, they have coordinators and so on. But in the end, the entire campaign, the client’s success and failure, depends on the consultant being able to ensure that all elements fall into place. Beware the consultant who thinks his job is finished when a clients signs the agreement, or the advertising agency recieves the purchase order. Nothing ever goes as planned, and it is the consultant who needs to be on top of it all to ensure that value is delivered to the client, and the bottom line of the agency is protected.

Finally, the one sure way to spot a good consultant is his great personality. He needs to be able to face the ups and downs, maintaining his positive outlook at all times. He is the bastion of calm when the agency panics. He steps up to the plate and deals with difficult clients. He goes to bat for the client and deal with internal red-tape to get a project completed.

This article was written by Vivienne Quek.
. I found it very enlightening and to be frank, resembling of how I operate my practice, if I do say so myself! Please let me know your thoughts, I am curious to know.
Mark Buzan is Principal and Chief Magnifier in Action Strategies, a full service Marketing Communications, Public Relations and Public Affairs Consultantcy. Make sure to contact him for advise on reaching audiences you may or may not have yet considered in your marketing communications and PR campaigns. Drop him a line if you are looking for help in developing an internet media relations campaign. You can view his website at www.actionstrategies.ca.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New podcast & updates to Action Strategies' website!

Hey all! For regular readers of this blog, you know that Action Strategies produces a regular blog...well, almost regular! Admittedly, I've been in remiss in terms of producing new content. That's changed! Check my new podcast on my website. The subject is my favorite in PR: Communications Plans and the Essential Elements.

Also, check out the news section of the website. New developments have been added as well.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Huge opportunities for lobbying

Since my last communication with you, many things have unfolded. Quebec has a minority government for the first time in 130 years and a federal budget has produced a number of opportunities and challenges for organizations looking to sell to government or simply influence it.

For organizations looking to sell to government, my advise to them would be to
move NOW in their initiatives if the services they provide fit into an environmental
initiative or in the field of Defence. The environment continues to be a hot initiative.

Support for nuclear energy from the federal government seems to be on the rise. Those who believe they can offer intelligent research or alternatives need to kick up
their efforts. The Prime Minister knows he needs to look as ''green'' as possible to
turn his minority government into a majority. On the Defence front, Canada's Afghanistan mission means that contractors have an opportunity to press the advantage of their products to DND (Department of National Defence) procurement. The Minister of Defence's recent purchase of 100 new tanks could signal the chance for suppliers to see a new niche.

Provincially, Action Strategies is monitoring Ontario as it prepares for an election in October. The parties are preparing their platforms and associations would be wise to to begin promoting their cause to the platform developers. In Quebec, Mario
Dumont's ADQ has opened the door for new constitutional talks at the federal level and the environment is also front and centre provincially. Action Strategies may be
taking the lead in assisting a number of organizations in lobbying the provincial
Energy Efficiency Agency in public consultations scheduled this Spring.

All of these points lead to the need to timing. Now is the time to start your GR
efforts. In this edition, I will point out the conditions to watch that make a campaign most likely to succeed. Email me now for a free assessment of the opportunities available to your organization.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Is there a right or wrong time to launch a GR campaign?

Recent discussions I held with a client of mine helped me put this question into perspective. As for many association executives, resources are limited and any effort put forward needs to be assured a reasonable chance of success. As a result, I began thinking of the five criteria an executive should consider as indicators of true opportunities for change in government policy:

1. The most obvious to identify is where a sitting government has established its priorities. For example, what has the most recent budget or Speech from the Throne stated? Listing through the government priorities provides an organization the chance to do some very positive introspection.

2. Where does public opinion stand? When the tories came to power last year, few expected the environment to be as hot a subject as it is now. Their platform addressed the subject but it was clear that they had other priorities. Now that the environment has become a bigger priority for Canadians, government funding initiatives for the environment have taken a much bigger priority. In turn, the issues and concerns of the environmental lobby have also been heeded.

3.Honestly, are your expectations reasonable? Given what you know of your issue and the possible complexities involved, it's important to understand whether your position will fit with the government or carry any weight with complementary stake holders. For example, in an age where subsidies to public advocacy groups are on the decline, is it reasonable to set your benchmarks of success at $1 million of funding when the likelihood of receiving several thousand dollars will be challenging enough?

4. Who currently has the ear of policy makers? This is where the importance of a government relations audit is so crucial. Have opposing pressures or groups made gains ahead of yours, producing a situation wherein they are better positioned to have the ear of parliamentarians, legislators, and bureaucrats? If they have, are there alternative routes your organization can take? If not, when will the next best opportunity come?

5. Timing, timing, timing! Many factors can play into the success of a government relations campaign. Few however, have such a prominent role as timing. Examples of knowing when to launch a campaign include:
-The announcement of a coming commission or consultation process
-In advance of any budget, provincial or federal, committee hearings take place. Make sure to pay attention and participate. In last month's entry, I touched on the how-to's of presenting to committees.
-Opinion polls and media attention. If trends seem to be taking a direction different from the current government's, offering your solution to bridge the gap dramatically increases your chances.

Take these points to heart. They provide a unique opportunity for you to audit your government relations chances. Investing in an audit with an experienced GR consultant can save your organization time, effort and money down the road. Let me know if I can help,

Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.actionstrategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.