By Melissa A. Vitale
Many brands dipping their toe into public relations for the first time aren't ready to make a year-plus long commitment on a PR campaign. Many startups new to marketing investments want to trial a PR service with a limited engagement around a noteworthy announcement before taking the plunge into a full-fledged campaign. Starting Public Relations around a partnership, product launch or rebrand is a smart idea: it's a lot easier for publicists to initially drum up excitement around a brand in the press with something news and noteworthy to incentivize immediate and timely publication. Because the campaign is short term, brands may assume that the retainer would be cheaper as it doesn't require longterm planning and strategy in addition to short term results.
The most important component in the formula for public relations is time. A company receiving a full feature profile today has been working on that story, likely for months, or has been on the radar of the journalist for months either from their own efforts or through a publicist. Limited engagement public relations campaigns take away the most important aspect in public relations: time. Publicists have to introduce, explain the relevance, and garner excitement for a brand in a shorter period of time.
With the saturated startup market coupled with budget cuts across media companies limiting the amount of writers and reporters who are available to cover the escalating topics of importance to audiences, Publicists need to work every angle to garner coverage in a limited time.
The first tool in publicists bat-belt to place news stories in a short timeframe is increased volume. Publicists will reach out to more journalists and editors with more pitch angles than they may typically write in a month for a year-to-year client. While the PR campaign may not need hours for long-term strategy, a limited-engagement campaign needs more hours per month than a long-term campaign to compensate for the lack of time to garner coverage with a higher volume of outreach.
To gain traction of a PR initiative in a condensed timeframe, publicists need to call in their favors. Publicists often help out journalists and editors with sourcing from their networks even if it doesn't include coverage for their clients. Usually building up good will with a journalist will lead to a better reception of a pitch or story idea.
It addition to favors, publicists often call on their friends in media to help them out when there is a short deadline for press coverage. However, typically, these favors and friendships are not something that publicists can call on everyday or even fairly often. Its a once-in-a-while kind of thing. Most publicists offering short term PR campaigns have other clients. In these instances, the short-term client is getting preference in outreach among the publicist's close network than the clients who keep the lights on throughout the month. There is a premium price for that preferential focus.
It used to be that any publicist worth their salt only needed a couple months to garner attraction for a brand in the press. Now with consistent budget cuts to media, publicists need longer to get a story from pitch to publication, averaging around six months for a placement. While that is not the rule, it's a trend that many journalists, editors and fellow publicists echo is the media environment today. Limited engagement PR campaigns won't typically carry the same garnets as long term activations, but most publicists want to see their clients have success.
Without the time for strategy and building meaningful connections among press on behalf of their client, the motivation for client success forces publicists to work twice as hard and put in double the effort just to see a fraction of the result.
For brands looking to make a splash with their announcement without paying inflated short-term engagement costs, give your publicist at least six months from the payment of the first monthly retainer to the date of your planned announcement.
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