Does Performance based PR work? Forbes Analysis: pros and cons

By Mark Macias

Every once in a while, I’ll get a request from a potential client asking if my PR agency would work off a performance-based structure. 

It happened again recently and inspired this thought leadership I wrote for Forbes.

In theory, a performance-based model sounds like a great idea. The client doesn’t pay for anything unless the PR agency succeeds. Of course, as most entrepreneurs learn, if any deal is too one-sided, you lose money.

I don’t think many entrepreneurs really understand the depth, strategy and resources required to run a successful media campaign that leads to earned media — and I’m not talking about a press release. I’m talking about a bonafide news story or feature in a publication that you read.

You can read my analysis in Forbes here. If you’re short on time, here’s an abridged version of my thoughts on performance based PR.

Successful PR Campaigns

There are many components behind a successful PR campaign: strategy, research, critical thinking, creativity, contacts and execution. All of these components require time and money.

A successful strategy isn’t whipped together on a napkin, and it takes time to research the reporters if you want to scale the message to other markets.

Someone has to research those media outlets and pitch the story to those reporters. And if you’re going to succeed with that story, you need an editorial angle that is well researched and supported by facts. You can’t wing it with reporters over the phone.

But you probably want to hear from me: Does performance-based PR really work?

If a publicist agrees to work for free and get paid only after they secure publicity, you should take the offer. In fact, I’ll hire that publicist and pay them after they secure placements for our clients.

But the question I can’t answer is: Will it work for you? I don’t know that publicist but I suspect they don’t understand the time and resources behind a successful campaign. I also question their experience.

I’ve run my PR agency for close to 12 years now. On any given day, our team is pitching two or three different stories to reporters, giving us real feedback on what works and what doesn’t work. That experience helps us understand, adapt and create a strategy that builds on the next media campaign. 

What is that experience worth?