Mass Ave PR | Founding Principal | Jennifer Wagner
Business Insider posted an excellent piece last week about the trend away from permanent, full-time employees toward contract employment. It’s a must-read for small business owners considering the risk and costs of growing, especially in our sluggish economy.
As a founding principal of a public relations “micro-agency” — with an honest pricing model specifically designed to help small and mid-sized businesses and non-profits — here are the two paragraphs that struck me as most important:
I hope you now understand why so many businesses only want to work with contract labor/ self-employed people: having employees no longer makes financial sense for many small enterprises. What makes sense is paying someone a set fee to accomplish a set task, and that’s it, the obligation of both parties is fulfilled. If the task isn’t completed, then the fee isn’t paid. Revenues just aren’t steady enough in many cases to support a permanent employee. When the work comes in, then contract labor is brought in to get the work done. When it’s done, they’re gone, and all their overhead costs are theirs. It’s extraordinarily difficult to generate revenue in a deflationary economy, and extraordinarily difficult to scrape off a net income as expenses such as taxes, insurance, healthcare, etc. continue climbing year after year.
Self-employment places a premium on professionalism and results. Unlike offices filled with managers and employees, nobody cares about your problems, conflicts, complaints about the common-area fridge or your attendence at meetings. Once you’ve been self-employed for a while, and you only hire/work with other self-employed people, then you look back on conventional work places as absurdist theaters of schoolyard politics, tiresome resentments and child-parent conflicts acted out by self-absorbed adults. Once you’re self-employed, your focus shifts to nurturing a productive network of clients, customers and like-minded, reliable, resourceful self-employed people who will give you work/work for you when you need help. Building trust and following through on what you promised to do become your priority.
There’s a fundamental design flaw within the Big PR model: no sense of ownership among the rank and file employees. That lack of ownership coupled with a lack of experience among junior-level staff often begets mediocre service.
That’s because the firm knows it’s got most clients on the hook for at least a year for $5,000 or more per month. There’s plenty of room for quality slippage once the checks start rolling in, and there’s not a darn thing the client can do about it. The account manager knows his or her salary is fixed at a certain level with little reason to exceed expectations. Missing from the whole arrangement? Incentive.
We met this week with a prospective client who told us we were competing against a large agency in town. She asked very directly why she should hire us over them.
I responded with two simple reasons: We know what we’re doing, and we’re not going to hand off your account to someone who doesn’t.
This should be a critical selling point for clients of all sizes, but it’s particularly important for smaller ones.
Here’s a dirty little secret of the PR industry: As a small or midsized business, you might meet with the principal of a big agency who will sell you on the need for strategic messaging. You will hear about the agency’s success stories and be quoted a price — likely much higher than it needs to be — to have the agency work its magic on your behalf.
As soon as you sign on the dotted line, the principal will disappear, and someone with far less experience — possibly none at all — will take the reins.
I say this is particularly important for smaller clients because smaller clients have less money to spend. In the eyes of a big agency, that means it’s okay to hand them off to entry-level staffers and interns. In our eyes, it’s PR malpractice.
We price our services honestly because we believe every client’s message is equally important. It doesn’t cost us any more to work with a big company than it does with a small non-profit, so why should we charge them on different scales?
Our overhead is low enough to make the model work: We don’t rely on entry-level help, and we work in inexpensive office space, passing along those savings to our clients.
In a business world that’s increasingly transparent and competitive, it’s a model that’s working for the clients who work with us. We also believe it’s a model that eventually will transform Big PR away from clunky inefficiency into the results-driven industry it should be.
But that’s not our goal.
Trite as it might sound, we just want to make top-notch messaging and outreach available to more folks with up-front pricing and a commitment to high-quality service.
To learn more about our honest pricing public relations and publicity business model in Indianapolis or nationwide, click here to schedule your free consultation with Mass Ave Public Relations.
Learn more about Mass Ave Public Relations founding principal Jennifer Wagner.