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August 07, 2006

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Deborah, I find myself confused as to your recommendation. So, Andy has a budget. He also makes a great point that he doesn't want $10-15K in service. He wants his problem fixed. If anyone shows up and follows your advice on Listen/Ask/Listen, they're gonna get his respect. Money won't matter if he believes that this person can fix his problem.

OK, so now we come to the bootstrap startup. Are you suggesting that they should find someone who's not as good as you to go out and do what's necessary? Are you suggesting that they'll get it for less than $10K? Are you suggesting that the results per dollar will be greater if they don't use you? If they only had a $3K budget, wouldn't that be more wisely invested with you (an expert) than with an intern? Shouldn't you, as the respected expert, either find a way to help them withing their budget, or tell them that the solution is you at $10K and their is no other solution?

Incidentally, Dave Kurlan's book, Baseline Selling, calls that kind of respect, "Speed on Base". Check it out.

Hey Rick - sorry for the confusion. I sort of hijacked the PR agency issue and ran with it to point out a greater issue - that $10K a month*12 months is a good salary. For that line item in my marketing budget I could bring in 1-2 junior people full time to reach out directly to my constituency. I completely agree with Andy that the PR agency model needs to change - heck the two of us have been discussing this for a while offline. Of course, it depends on the agency, and I believe the more strategic and ‘marketing’ related they are the better. I have worked with some great teams that get more involved in the strategy of a company and make a real difference. Remember that companies often hamper agencies by hiring them late in the process and expecting them to work miracles. Let's face it, the bottom line often is that when you are hiring PR with the goal of getting "ink" you are hiring a person's rolodex and relationships and ability to get X reporter to take their calls.

Finally - as for my “expertise”, right now, I am happy to advise companies on a strategic direction for a set fee with concrete objectives, but I stand by the point that the best 'mouthpiece' for a company is the company itself and its customer/community - that has legs. I would never say the solution is me at $10K – no way! More likely, "hey, how about engaging your customer's directly or bringing on some of your passionate customers as advisors, or coming up with a fun promotional idea that your customer's will love as a "pr stunt"? And BTW, the tighter you communicate with your customer's and develop trust with them directly the better they are also able to help you when you inevitable drop the ball on something.

Awesome article, Deb.

Although I hate the distinction between expert and amateur that Rick makes, I have seen a few really bad executions of community outreach...ironically a couple of experts AND amateurs involved. :)

Investing that $10k internally is important. Making certain that person knows what the heck they are doing...well...maybe they should hire you to mentor them lightly at the beginning. ;) Maybe an $8k salary + a 2-hour a week $2k retainer to you.

Thanks Tara! That is exactly what I currently do - mentor, advise, provide direction. My point is that an outside expert will never be as good as someone internal -- for a long term solution. I do tend to over dramatize for effect tho, don't I..;)

And yes- with all hype comes people who know more or less about said subject. It is an art more than a science and requires a very particular type of person combined with the right culture.

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