This blog was originally drafted in summer 2020, just as the first signs of first lockdown easing were beginning to creep through – how long ago that seems now! Its purpose was to highlight the importance of scalable PR, not just in terms of budget, but scalability to ensure activity is not decimated. That means campaign deliverables need to be clearly identified. Timesheets and time-based monthly retainers do not provide the solid foundation required for a business looking to move through a branding and economic recovery phase. IBA research conducted through the end of 2020 corroborated this. A study of 1,500 B2B marketers found 88% of marketing managers suspect a large amount of the public relations spend is wasted.

This research and the events since this blog was first published clearly show that flat monthly billing and deliverables-based pricing should now be a prerequisite for any PR agency support.

Businesses have several key decisions to weigh up as countries around the world begin to relax lockdown measures and draw up plans to kickstart their economies – and that includes the approach they take to launch new marketing campaigns.

For many this would usually mean working with large fee-based retainer communications agencies to plot a strategy. But in a post-lockdown scenario, the budgets are simply not there to spend tens and thousands of dollars on communications every month or for a set period – but more importantly, incumbent agencies just don’t offer the flexibility to allow businesses to adapt their marketing deliverables while campaigns gather speed.

That’s why a scalable, fixed-priced deliverable PR approach should be a top consideration to support near-term marketing campaigns. This way not only will businesses ensure they achieve their marketing goals, but that they get real value for their money.

WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get!

Scalable PR is all about businesses being able to adjust their level of marketing activity depending on their aims.

For example, you may want to front-load a campaign in the lead up to a product launch or a marquee event. You might want to start with a series of press releases, secure a certain number of journalists to attend the event, ahead of pitching thought leadership content to target media. This could mean a lot of media and content work taking place in the space of an intense three-month period. The business can be sure of the level support they will get – and exactly how much it’s going to cost them.

But this becomes a problem for businesses that work with time-based agencies. In this scenario, at any point during a launch campaign it’s possible this type of agency could request more funding from a business to carry out desired marketing activities. This could be as a result of time lost while drafting an article which has taken numerous rounds of approvals, or time spent reaching out to journalists who still haven’t confirmed their attendance for an event.

Flat billing – mix and move deliverables depending on your marketing needs, not a PR agency’s billing proposal

With a fixed-price and deliverables-based PR approach, however, a business is aware of just how far their budget will stretch. Knowing how much every PR activity will cost through a flat fee enables them to scale their level of marketing activity up and down depending on their goals.

In this scenario, a company pays for a set number of deliverables that they can mix and move depending on their immediate and longer-term needs. The scalability is there to switch from three press releases and one post-event bylined article, to, say, one press release and a blog and an article – or to add or a remove a pitching geography. If there’s a price difference, this can be quickly and easily accounted for by changing the deliverables the following month or quarter. No additional costs for time spent on work which is no longer required or for time-consuming approval processes to get thought leadership content over the line.

We’re speaking from experience! This is what scalable means in practice

IBA has form here. Last year we ran a three-month product launch campaign for our machine learning client. During this period, we ensured a consistent pattern of activity for them, from thought leadership articles and press releases to award entries and executive interviews – not to mention the seven journalists we signed up to attend their launch event!

By the end they had secured almost 50 pieces of Tier One coverage across their target industries of finance & investment, pharmaceutical technology, manufacturing and more – reaching a potential audience of over 3.5 million readers across North America and the UK & Ireland.

We’ve also recently struck up a relationship with a client in contact center space. They are using our service to centrally create a stream of articles, blogs and social content, and can scale these deliverables into multiple geographies for a cost-effective price. This is achieved by localizing centrally created deliverables and tweaking it for individual placement opportunities in every geography they want to cover. So, rather than paying multiple times for content, they are paying a modest fee to use that same content in other regions and guarantee results!

Scalable PR – get better value from your marketing activity

It shouldn’t cost huge fees to put in the groundwork for a successful PR and comms campaign. It’s about paying for a service which is geared up to meet your marketing needs when and where you see fit.

That could mean swapping out or removing a deliverable – or adding a new geography to pitch thought leadership content – a scalable PR service makes this possible. This way, clients know exactly what level of support they are getting for their money each month, and this approach eliminates any concern or uncertainty about hours being racked up by agencies that charge on a time-basis.

So, as we slowly re-emerge from life in lockdown, if you’re looking to kick off a campaign and want guaranteed results for a fixed price, then get in touch with the IBA team today and find out how we can grow your brand.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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