When a brand doesn't have the budget for the public relations package they want
By Melissa A Vitale
I have had an alarming amount of people ask me if I could offer them top tier public relation services at no cost to them. I've been asked to execute full media plans and strategy for zero compensation. Absolutely free.
They hope that I can invest in their vision and their ability to grow. What I hear is, "I want the benefit of your services, but I'd like you to pay for my benefit out of your own pocket." Basically, I would be the only one investing my time, money and energy in their media efforts so they can reap the rewards of having a press campaign (exposure, increased sales, name recognition and executive visibility).
The short answer is 'no'.
The people asking for no-fee PR services want me to invest in their vision, but won't do the same for mine. The Perfect PR plan: no risk, just reward; all the benefits of a fully-functioning PR plan but no loss of money! Who wouldn't want that!? Let's make this clear: this is not my volunteer job.
Above all else, I run a business. MAVPR is not my side hustle. It's not a gig. It is the reason why I can live in one of the biggest media hubs in the world. MAVPR is my full time job, and the income I make is the reason my cat can have regular vet checkups, and it is responsible for the clothes on my back, the food in my fridge, and my over-priced health insurance. Unlike many young millennials, I don't have any relation or relationship who is my financial beneficiary. Like Ms. Grande so eloquently phrased it: "I Want It I Buy It." That goes for everything from my lifestyle to my business, and as I'm sure you know, the costs of running a business can add up in a single day based on the shifting needs of a diverse client base.
Along with running a business, I do so in one of the most expensive cities in the world, something that adds to my value thanks to my proximity to so many media outlets. My landlord does not accept "your vision" as a form of payment. Similarly, the expensive industry services that make up majority of my overall business costs won't waive their fee because I've got a great client.
Just because I am independent of a large firm, doesn't mean I work for free; I have worked long enough in the PR industry and received enough accolades that I no longer need to consider pro-bono work for exposure or to build my portfolio. I'm not a publicist looking for a brand to join on board with like Cheryl Sandberg did with Google (though her compensation was NOT free lets make that clear), I actively seek innovative brands who want to invest efficiently in their public relations campaign.
Not that I'm always looking at my bottom line... I hope one day I will have a big enough firm to be able to offer pro-bono services to companies that typically won't have a PR budget like non-profit organizations or to individuals being weaponized in the press for another agenda. But I also want to go to law school in the next decade (and literally the most expensive one at that). So right now, I need to avoid practices that take away my energy without the value my business needs to not just survive, but thrive in order to sustain all the goals I have for it.
I used the word alarming in the first paragraph because I personally don't ask for services for free. I will ask the cost of something and weigh whether I can or cannot afford it and am upfront immediately if its not in the budget. If someone offers their services for free, that's one thing (and typically, I thank them generously). Work, expertise and craftsmanship is valuable, and giving it away from free makes those creatives have to work harder to grow their business. If you want something, you should buy it!
I have offered to help brands and organizations that I full-heartedly believed in, but at my time and schedule, with an understanding there would be weeks or months where my paying clients would dominate priority. Those pro-bono services are limited and extremely rare because I still run a business, and I would not be able to operate without incoming revenue. If I took on extra clients without extra payment, I would be working twice as hard while someone else benefits from my hard work, while my benefits are only potential and far off.
When I am unable to afford something that I want, rather than going to the store and asking for it for free, I either save my money until it is within budget, or I walk away from it because typically, stores don't accept "well I'll make money one day and you'll benefit then too".
Before you ask, I already answered whether or not I accept equity for public relations.
If all business could sustainably offer free goods and services in exchange for hope of later equity or reimbursement, I would be able to entertain the offer to invest in your vision, and I would also have a lot more Chanel bags in my closet.
MAVPR has a number of budget friendly packages for those looking to dip their toe into public relations.
Curious about whether you or your brand are ready for public relations? Schedule a consultation!
To learn more about what we specialize in, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/about.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.