Did This Attorney Waste His Money?

by Nick Nichols, Professional Services Marketing Expert

Here’s a question from the Small Firm Marketing LinkedIn group:

"A ‘branding expert’ approached me to run my ‘marketing campaign.’ I told her I’d hire her on a pay per placement basis to get me media interviews. With no track record I advanced her a grand. Did I throw away my money?"

The pay-for-performance model can work in certain situations – such as personal injury law – where the provider of the services has a high expectation of getting positive results. This expectation is based on the facts and circumstances of a case as they apply to similar resolved cases. If those facts, circumstances and precedents are strong enough, then the firm takes the case because the potential fee can be substantial compared to the financial risk.

In the case of a branding and PR campaign, the potential return is not so cut-and-dry to either side. No PR firm can legitimately guarantee placement even if they have strong relationships with media you want to target. It just doesn’t work that way.

If a client expects a pay-for-placement arrangement then the client must have a story that is interesting, compelling and relevant to the viewers, listeners or readers of the targeted media. In other words, the story must be newsworthy. If not, why should those media give away what is essentially free advertising?

Unfortunately, the day-to-day lives of most people and businesses are just not very newsworthy. So if you want media coverage, you must become newsworthy. You must build your brand well in advance of launching any PR campaign. This takes effort, time and usually some money, along with paid guidance from an expert.

Launching a PR campaign is not like buying an ad. It’s like planning a wedding. Before you send out your invitations (press releases; pitches) you have to make sure you’re prepared for the guests (reporters; show producers; columnists; bloggers). Being prepared not only means being newsworthy, it means having all the key elements in place so that when the media – and hopefully potential clients – arrive, they will immediately see that you are, in fact, an expert. Hopefully they will take your most desired action (MDA).

In the case of the media, the MDA is to interview you for a story, get your opinion on a legal issue that is affecting their audience so they can quote you, ask you to write an article for their publication, or post to their blog. Or all four. In the case of potential clients, the MDA is to get them to contact you for an appointment and retain you.

If a branding or PR consultant doesn’t explain all this to you up-front then you run the risk of throwing away your money. I offer a free PDF/MP3 called "Branding Secrets Revealed" that will give you some additional insight on planning and launching a branding campaign.