PR: no media coverage, no fee?

I just received a press release from a PR agency offering a ‘new’ business model: coverage in the media or you don’t pay.

Now, I know this isn’t really that new because last year I blogged when Sally Romano from Brisbane agency Publicity Queen did exactly the same, causing quite a furore, especially among fellow PR professionals.

So what do we think in 2010? Is this an innovative way to charge for PR services or does it devalue what you do? Personally, I’m concerned that only charging clients when you get them media coverage misses out on all the other aspects of PR which are not as obviously or easily measurable.

Today’s press release came from Jothy Hughes at N O W! Communications: “Free PR for any company in Australia! Until I get you results…”

It states monthly retainers will be non-existent and: “There’ll be no fluffy reports, no mention of ‘this coverage is in the pipeline’ and no timesheets.”

N O W! Communications will get a client coverage on TV or radio, in newspapers or magazines and if they don’t, the client won’t have to pay for their time.

By Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.


  1. I think it depends in the payscale. I mean, what’s a positive Tweet worth? What is a case study in a monthly magazine worth? Wouldn’t the value of those be different depending on the business?

  2. Working in PR, I often spend a lot of time and effort working on publicity opportunities that sometimes just don’t get off the ground. Whether it’s a pitch or an interview you set up that gets discounted or overlooked by a journo. However, despite having no tangible outcome in terms of column inches or AVE (IMO qualitative measurements not even accurate nor representative of true success for a client anyway) my valuable time has still been spent building contacts, nurturing media relationships and pitching a client’s name to the right people. Agencies should be transparent, but clients should respect inputs (blood, sweat, tears) and not just output/outcomes (results).

  3. As a small business owner this is the solution i have been looking for! Red Pr also offer the same service.

  4. Hi Emily, I just saw your post and wanted to clarify that Red PR does NOT offer that service. To me this screams of an agency that is desperate for work and trying anything they can to get it through the door. If you are a good agency worth your salt, you dont need to try this sort of stunt.

    PR isn’t just about editorial, it also includes events, sponsorship, promotions, corporate communications, social media and they all have different ways of measuring the success of that activity – it certainly isn’t all about column cms.

    I know it can be tough when you are a small business trying to find the right agency, but it is like anything in life, you get what you pay for and maybe spending a little extra will ensure you are getting the service and quality you need to achieve the best results.

    Best wishes with your PR campaign, whatever road you travel.

  5. I have always operated on a similar system!

    Can’t help but put myself in the client’s shoes – and I know I wouldn’t like to be paying the full price for …nothing. Regardless of how much work you put into delivering nothing! In my view, if the strategy doesn’t work, then there should be significant consideration given to reducing the fee, or not invoicing at all.

  6. Defining public relations success just as ‘coverage’ – whether good, bad or indifferent – is a pretty limited view of what PR can achieve. It may suit some businesses, but definitely not all. I thought we were long past the days of PR measurement equaling advertising space?

    Sometime a successful PR program is about NOT getting media coverage!

  7. PRs have fought for years to have their hard work recognised and appreciated by short-sighted clients who underestimate the amount of time, effort and skill that goes into implementing a successful PR campaign.

    Encouraging clients to see PR as a quick fix, one-off solution instead of a sustained, well-thought out strategy to support their long term business goals is both short-sighted and foolish and will only ever bring our industry into disrepute.

    Successfully building a brand’s reputation is something that occurs gradually and takes time and care – it doesn’t happen overnight. Spending money on a one-off press hit is akin to the proverbial p&ssing in the wind – but I expect Hughes doesn’t mention that when his clients come knocking.

  8. Good luck to him and I applaud him for developing a business model that is outside the norm. Having written that, I would be turned off by his website that claims his PR model is :’ one of the only ones of it’s (sic) kind in Australia’. While I’m no grammar Nazi, if the author puts an apostrophe in that sentence you have to ask if your media release will be just as slap-dash. PR’s writing skills need to be held to a higher standard.
    I agree with some of the comments made earlier suggesting that PR success is more than just column inches. Coverage in publications that are not read by your target publics is less than useless.

  9. good model. I would hire this agency. Also if PR creates extra value and is best done with a long term approach it does not mean that Now’s model does not work. Its up to the client to decide what they want – a short term hit or a long term strategy with different measurables. goodluck

  10. Pay peanuts. Buy monkeys. Perfect for foolish small businesses that have no idea what PR is, how the media work, and what success looks like.

  11. Five years ago we launched a new website which caught the attention of Alan Jones at 2GB. His producer rang me and asked if I would agree to a short live interview with Alan during his breakfast show.
    The interview lasted for 9 minutes and despite having spent 100’s of thousands of dollars on a variety of advertising campaigns before and since NOTHING came close to the postive results and business generated by that 9 minute interview.
    To say that I believe that good PR is good for business is an understatement, but is has to be GOOD PR.
    For the record 3 of the new websites we are currently promoting are also “No Result No Pay” models. One of them is

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