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“...Throughout the entire campaign there was an intangible element that could best be described as karmic calmness. Anyone can buy services and expect to get what they've paid for, but it’s always the intangibles that provide the true value.”

— Lance LaBreche, Artist Manager
In Good Faith Entertainment, Ltd.

Frequently Asked Questions about
Publicity and Public Relations

 

Q. 

Isn’t advertising more effective than publicity to sell a product?

A.  Publicity campaigns work in conjunction with advertising and sales efforts to sell products and services. With advertising the message is clear: Buy this product. Publicity gives you an independent voice, which adds credibility and shelf life to your product. When an editor of a highly regarded newspaper or magazine recommends your service or reviews your product, the editorial authority weighs more in the reader’s mind than an advertisement. Follow-up advertising reminds readers that they “read a review” of the product or service. Sales representatives can use the mention in their sales presentations as a measure of the product’s worth.
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Q. 

How do I know I’ll be represented fairly by the press?

A.  Mantra’s press materials are approved by you, so nothing goes out to the press that you haven’t preapproved. When you have an interview with a journalist—whether on TV, radio or for a print piece—you will already have your talking points in hand. These talking points can be written up in advance so you’re not caught off-guard by the press. It is important to remember, however, that you don’t control the media; that’s what makes it so credible. So the media can ask you anything at any time. With practice, you’ll become skilled at fielding all kinds of questions, whether or not they were included in the talking points you provided to the media in advance.
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Q. 

We’ve tried publicity in the past, but after a while everything fizzles out. How can we keep that from happening in the future?

A.  “Persistent, consistent communications with the media is key,” says Gaye Carleton, president and CEO of Mantra Public Relations. “You have to find new angles on your product or service to let the media know you are serious about helping them do their jobs. In other words, a good publicity pitch is made with the reporter or producer in mind, NOT just your product or service. Creating timely and newsworthy angles actually helps the media get its job done.”
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Q. 

What is per-placement fee publicity? Do you offer that?

A.  Per-placement fee structures allow the PR agency to collect a fee only if they make a media placement. Mantra Public Relations does not work on a per-placement fee basis. Here’s why:
  1. When a PR agency is paid on a per-placement fee basis, there is absolutely no strategy involved in the client’s publicity campaign. It’s more of a “throw it against the wall...” effort. Then once the PR agency feels like it’s given its best shot at securing placements for clients involved in this type of fee structure, they quickly move on to the next client, and so on and so on, all in an effort to pay their rent.
  2. After 25 + years in PR, we know that consistency is the most critical element of a successful PR campaign. There is no consistent, persistent effort in involved in per-placement fee structures, and that means there’s no longevity or shelf life for the client or product. PR efforts and publicity campaigns were never ever meant to start and stop, and that’s what happens in per placement situations.
  3. There are people and companies that have been involved in these types of per-placement situations, and they do swear by them. Unfortunately, these people aren’t anyone you’ve ever heard of, and that should speak volumes about the effectiveness of per-placement fees.
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Q. 

Do you work with clients to place op-eds or other articles in newspapers and magazines?

A.  Yes, if a client writes an op-ed or other appropriate piece for publication, we identify suitable media outlets and endeavor to place the piece on behalf of our client.
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Q. 

I’ve never spoken with the press before. Do I need media coaching?

A.  Media coaching can be helpful if you’re afraid or shy. In our experience, you probably just need someone to sit down and role-play a media interview with you. Certainly it helps to have an objective eye assess your clothing, especially for television appearances, but practice with a media professional will make your answers sound smooth and confident.
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Q. 

How should I measure PR results?

A.  Goals are set at the beginning of your public relations campaign. As your publicity campaign progresses, goals are reassessed and often changed, and frequently expanded. They aren't necessarily written in stone, but rather used as measurement. In our experience, to really evaluate the impact of PR, you need two years of concerted effort. And remember, PR is something you should incorporate into your business in an ongoing way.
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Q. 

Do PR firms do special projects?

A.  Yes, but the project must have a specific beginning and specific ending. For example, to promote a month-long celebration in which events will be held throughout a city might require beginning the project six months prior to the month and end on the last day of the celebration month. Special projects fees are usually billed as a one-time fee paid at the beginning of the project. Expenses are then billed back through the term of the special project.
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Q. 

What is the normal term of a PR contract?

A.  The standard term of a public relations contract is 12 months.
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Q. 

How much does PR cost?

A.  What you pay for in public relations is time and talent. Time is actual hours spent on your account; talent is the quality of the time spent. Public relations fees are usually set as a monthly retainer, with a minimum number of months—usually 12 months depending on the scope of the PR project. Fees range from $3,000 -$10,000 per month, again depending on the PR needs of the company. Special events might range from $10,000 per project to $50,000, in accordance with the nature of the special event. Expenses are usually billed separately, with a preapproval process in place so that you always know how much to budget in any given month.
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Q. 

If I want big results, shouldn’t I go to a big PR firm?

A.  "Bigger is not necessarily better," says Gaye Carleton, president of Mantra Public Relations. Smaller agencies provide the exact same services as the big ones with one major difference: clients get a bigger bang for their buck, more personalized service and the kind of attention only a small company can provide.  Additionally, many boutique agencies, like Mantra, hire only senior publicists, so that the most experienced PR specialists are handling client accounts.
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Q. 

If we’re serious about public relations, shouldn’t we hire an in-house publicist or communications director?

A.  Depending on the size of your company and the benefits offered to full-time employees, hiring an in-house publicist can be an efficient use of your PR budget, particularly if you need someone to handle ongoing interoffice communications. Be aware that an in-house staffer will focus his or her attention solely on your industry. If you want a broader focus, in the national and international business and/or consumer media, a PR agency is better positioned to identify opportunities—and to create new ones—than a staffer might be.

That said, many larger companies with a fully staffed communications departments will frequently hire boutique PR agencies for special projects or to handle the launch of a new product or upcoming marketing campaign. It's not only cost-effective, but outside PR firms can also infuse new energy into existing campaigns.
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Q. 

Should I hire a PR firm that specializes in my industry?

A.  There are times when hiring a PR firm that specializes in a particular industry is the right thing to do. For example, if your publicity goals are centered solely on your industry trade media, or you want media coverage that is the same as your competition’s, firms specializing in that industry may be just the ticket.

But if you want to rise above your competition and have a broader set of goals, then a generalist PR firm is a better match. This type of agency has contacts in a variety of media outlets and isn’t limited by the constraints of "formula" PR.
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Q. 

I’ve narrowed down my search for a good PR firm to a few select candidates. How do I decide who’s right for me and my company?

A.  Ask the hard questions. Find out exactly who will be handling your account and who is responsible for results. Do they provide monthly reports that are quantified and matched to your agreed-upon publicity goals? What is the minimum number of hours the firm expects to spend per month on publicizing your product or service? Does the firm work on a “formula” basis? Or do they seem to be genuinely creative thinkers who will keep your best interests first and foremost? What input will you have with them? Will your ideas for publicity and PR be respected and addressed in a timely fashion? Will they answer their phones when you call to talk? Moreover, during the interview process, have they answered all your questions and concerns. Do you like the people you've meet so far at the firm?  Once you've done your homework, like checking references and comparing notes, it's time to make a decision. Go with your best instincts.
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Have more questions about publicity or PR? Call Gaye Carleton at +1-212-645-1600. Or e-mail gaye@mantrapublicrelations.com.

 

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