When it comes to PR firms, never hire the low bidder.
You don’t buy the cheapest car you can find, you don’t buy the cheapest car insurance, you don’t buy the cheapest house, house insurance, life insurance nor the cheapest meal. (When the last time you ate Ramen noodles?).
Public relations firms that undercharge are typically not confident in their capabilities. You want to hire qualified, experienced experts when you’re entrusting them with your company’s reputation and, ultimately, livelihood. You want to hire the confident public relations firm that knows it can meet and exceed your needs.
In my experience, public relations firms that undercharge can afford to do so because:
1. They need the business.
2. They have an inferior product.
3. They’re winging it and don’t know the full requirements and costs to do the work at the level required to get results.
Most public relations firms specialize in local PR work (in their backyards or communities). They don’t know how to do national public relations campaigns. They lack the ideas and relationships to compete, so they undercharge and assume they can learn and figure out how to do it “on the job,” and on your dime! In the long run, that ends up costing their clients a lot of money in lost opportunities, experience and training time. What’s worse, if something happens and your low-bid PR firm makes a hairy situation worse because its people don’t have an adequate understanding of the profession, you’ve paid them to bungle your standing with the public and are going to have to pay them (or someone more qualified) to rectify it. (And PR clean up work costs more than doing it right the first time!)
Be wary: Most public relations firms aren’t used to large-scale work. Ask a local-centric firm to do a national PR campaign and it’s a fish out of water that quickly keels over and dies due to starvation and incompetence. In other words, they aren’t qualified for the work, which is underfunded from the start because they bid low. Firms like Axia that submit reasonably higher bids may seem expensive in comparison, and that’s because their deliverables are better and more valuable – the best, even; don’t automatically pay the least, because it’s probably the worst.
By Jason Mudd, APR
Jason Mudd, APR, is the CEO of Axia Public Relations and an Emmy-Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national brands such as American Airlines, Dave & Buster’s, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles and Verizon, as well as emerging brands like Brightway Insurance, Pragmatic Works and It Works! Global.