The PR Pay-for-Play vs Retainer Model

Over the years, we’ve received questions from potential clients about our business model and the value of a retainer relationship – often coming from companies with either limited dealings or previous negative experiences with PR agencies. Recently though, these questions are originating from direct experience with a newer agency model – the pay-for-play or placement agency – where the client pays only if the agency scores a placement in a priority publication, often on a tiered basis depending on the priority of the publication.

The challenge with the placement model in the B2B world is that there often is a limited investment on the agency’s part in getting to know their client’s business – what makes them unique, the nuances and types of problems they are they solving for their clients, who the real buyers are, their take on industry issues and mostly importantly, market trends. These are all critical components in what makes up a strong and successful PR program. Because without them, yes, you can target publications all day long and get some media placements, but they are likely the wrong publications and the wrong messages for creating sustainable and targeted marketplace visibility. For limited, short-term engagements, sometimes the pay-for-placement model can be appealing, but beware if you are looking for long-term visibility and consistently on-point value messaging that resonates with your buyers.

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