Most public relations firms will cite studies that say PR is at least three times more credible than advertising.

After all, if the Chamber of Commerce trusts you enough to address that business group, the perception is likely to be that you are an accomplished professional.

If a journalist or the publication trusts you enough to quote you, publish your articles or have you on air, then many people will think that they, too, can trust you.

If a community or other foundation has deemed you competent and insightful enough to serve on its board, then folks will assume you are a competent and successful advisor. And if you're doing charitable work, then you certainly have an interest in helping people and doing what's right -- and that’s a good sign when an individual is trying to determine your character and whether or not you will put their interests first.

I am often asked, however, “how do I measure the return on my PR investment?

GETTING YOUR ARMS ABOUT THE VALUE OF PR

Some PR firms will use “ad equivalency” as well as “PR equivalency” to justify their fees. For example, if they secure a half-page profile for you in a local magazine and that space would have cost $10,000 to purchase for advertising purposes, they will tell you (and rightly so) that the advertising equivalency is $10,000.

If they apply the “PR is three times more valuable” rule-of-thumb to their measurement reports, they will tell you that the PR equivalency is $30,000. So, if the firm’s fee is $6,000 and you go by the advertising equivalency alone, which in this case is $10,000, you have not only saved yourself $4,000 in advertising fees but are likely to be seen by readers of that publication as a more credible resource than if you only advertised.

The truth of the matter is that these ROI measurements are flawed.

You can’t really measure the value of a good online presence or strong professional reputation. And because a good, strategic marketing plan will contain a variety of activities -- including advertising, sponsorships, speaking, writing, affinity events, educational events, social networking, online visibility, a well-articulated and unique value proposition, etc. -- it can be hard to know for sure exactly which piece of the diversified but targeted marketing strategy is working at any precise point in time.

We do know, however, that it takes multiple, positive impressions before people begin to notice the brand or public persona. And it will likely take even more impressions and communication “touches” before they begin to see how you can add value and be the right resource for them. 

Like most marketing activities, public relations is best done as a marathon not a sprint. It takes time to build share of mind and strong perceptions. So while you will want to consider measuring the ROI using some sort of metric, it is important to remember that the credibility that will build over the course of time as you are seen as a positive presence in the public eye and, ideally, in key circles of interest, is (quite literally) priceless.

 PAYING FOR RESULTS

Last week, I provided information about working with a PR firm on a flat rate project basis. A project fee makes the most sense if you have a big project, such as the need to promote a book or major event.

This week, we'll talk about Pay-for-Placement plans.

As a quick recap, there are five basic structures for working with a PR firm:

1.  Retainer Plans

2.  Hourly Service Plans

3.  Project Work Plans

4.  Pay-for-Placement Fees

5.  Group Training and Empowerment Programs

OPTION #4: PAY-PER-PLACEMENT PLANS

Some PR firms will work on a “pay per placement” basis, which means they will only charge you if a media interview, television appearance or article placement occurs. I’ve seen placement schedules that show:

-- Interviews on a local television station: $1,200 to $1,500 per appearance

-- Interviews on a national cable network such as CNBC or Fox: $3,500 to $5,000 per appearance

-- Interviews on a national broadcast network such as ABC, NBC, CBS: $5,000 to $6,500 per appearance

-- Interviews on a major show such as Good Morning America or the TODAY show: $7,500 to $15,000 per appearance

-- A string of 12-15 local radio interviews: $3,000 to $5,000

-- A string of 12-15 national radio interviews: $5,000 to $7,000

-- Media mentions in local newspapers and magazines: $400 to $500 per inclusion

-- Media mentions in national consumer magazines such as Kiplingers or Smart Money: $800 to $1,200 per inclusion

-- Profiles in national consumer magazines such as Entrepreneur or Worth: $8,000 to $15,000 per focus piece

-- Writing and placing a bylined article via an online outlet such as Forbes.com or PhysiciansMoneyDigest.com: $2,000 to $3,000

-- Writing and placing a bylined article in an industry trade magazine such as Advisor Today or Journal of Personal Finance: $3,000 to $5,000

Advantages:  Fees are performance based, which means you are guaranteed media coverage. You can ramp up or down based on your appetite for media coverage and related expenditures.

Disadvantages:  You may feel like you are being “shoe-horned in” to things that are easiest for the PR firm to secure. It may take a while to get the results you’d hoped for. You’ll have to mind-meld with the PR Team numerous times. Results may be sporadic. Your activity level and related fees will be less predictable than a retainer or project plan.

The pay-per-placement plan may work best if you are not sure of the PR firm’s ability to truly deliver what you need, or as a supplement to what you are already doing via in-house.

WHAT’S AHEAD?

In the coming weeks I’ll answer these additional questions that I hear time and again from financial advisors:

-- Are there any media training programs that make sense for advisors?

-- Does it ever make sense to advertise?

-- What’s the best way to leverage the press I get?

This fall, I’ll be speaking at a number of conferences. Look for me at the following events:

*  September 14-17: FPA National Convention in San Diego.  Presenting “Twitter Live with Industry Thought Leaders” on the Professional Pavilion Stage and hosting a special Round Table Discussion on the “State of the Financial Planning Profession” with Bob Veres and Industry Leaders in the Community Building. Learn more at: www.fpanet.org

*  September 24: Fairfield University in Fairfield CT. Presenting a full-day workshop on Building Your Online Presence for FPA-CT and FPA Hudson Valley. FPA members, non-members and business people in the community are all invited to attend (attendees to not need to be financial advisors). Details at http://www.marieswift.com/ and www.fpact.org

*  October 13-14: Tiburon CEO Summit in San Francisco. Attending and providing conference services onsite. Find the invitation criteria at: www.tiburonadvisors.com

*  October 24-27: NAPFA Practice Management and Investments Conference in Brooklyn. Conducting half-day Social Media Boot Camp as a pre-conference offering as well as a session on public relations and a round table discussion on marketing, PR and social media during the main conference.  Details at: http://www.NAPFA.com

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As president and CEO of Impact Communications, Inc., Marie leads a dedicated team of marketing communications and PR professionals serving financial institutions and a select group of independent advisors on an exclusive basis. Marie can be reached through her website, www.ImpactCommunications.org.