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Scottish Third Sector PR goes Freemium

The independent PR scene in Scotland has just had a welcome addition with the set up of CranComms, a bespoke agency set up by ex-Shelter PR supremo Christina Cran.

Now Christina has always worn her heart on her sleeve, making her not only one of Scotland’s most ethical PRs but one of the most honest and trustworthy and she’s taken that ethos to heart with her new venture, offering a freemium service to third-sector parties.

Basically, if Christina doesn’t get you coverage you won’t pay. She’ll do the work, get the press release out there, so the product is delivered, but if it doesn’t get a show then there’s no payment. (Some people may argue that’s not true freemium but I would disagree. She’s doing the basic service for nothing and not charging until afterwards/until there is coverage which is a secondary part. To me, that’s close enough – and yes, it means certain PR firms have been ahead of the game for years).

Now it’s a ballsy move, but it also shows that Christina knows she can spot the stories that will sell into papers, bloggers and elsewhere. You can also argue that in a digital age it’s easier to get a story placed. Perhaps so, but I’ll bet that Christina will be making sure – for SEO purposes if nothing else – that she only targets good relevant places.

Interesting times for us all!

6 Comments
  1. Jason Wassell

    Craig – Interesting idea, but isn’t there a risk that this is taking the PR profession back rather than forward? This could be seen as heading back to a position where it is all about media relations, all about the size of your cuttings book. Coverage becomes King, and Content and Context are relegated.

    But I am only probably hearing part of the story. And this is a consultancy service that is being offered. Consultancies recognise that they need to supply the services that are demanded by their clients. It may be that the in-house teams need coverage to fill a gap in their PR plan – and this is just what they are looking for.

    My concern is when consultants sell in media relations as public relations. Great coverage in a broadsheet may not reach your key C2DE audience, the newsworthy story may make it onto local radio but not change the perceptions of the listeners, and we may become obsessed with “raising profile” rather than persuading decision makers or driving action.

    Media relations is part of public relations – often an important part – but not the totality of PR.

    But of course I openly declare that I have a commercial interest in selling PR as stakeholder communications, integrated campaigning, internal communications, public affairs etc. So take my comments with a pinch of salt.

    • I thought I’d reply from the horse’s mouth.

      For me the idea of providing the No Coverage: No Fee guarantee came from speaking to a fellow charity PR who had hired the services of a big-name PR company to help with a campaign launch. She said pre-launch she had been sick with nerves and worried that a no show in the media would mean her still having to pay the budget – but with nothing to show her bosses for it.

      In the current financial climate, charities are struggling to keep their heads above water, budgets are tighter than ever before and I wanted to provide a cost effective service to ensure they have a strong voice to debate the current and coming changes.. I also wanted to ensure the people they work with – those most affected by, for example, benefit cuts, were able to speak. But for many charities, PR and communications is an unknown for them. So I thought I’d give them a chance to try it – hence the PR Promise for their first piece of media work.

      It was not a reflection on the PR industry – forwards or backwards – but trying to ensure that charities could trust a service they may never have had any dealings with in the past.

      As for media relations being part of public relations – my ethos is very much based around strategic public relations and communications that works in conjunction with overall organisational aims, taking into account key audiences, and against SMART objective (as you can see here http://www.crancomms.co.uk/what-why.aspx). The size of the cuttings file matters less to me than where it is placed and in front of whom. So I’m with you on that one.

      • Jason Wassell

        Christina,

        I had a feeling it was just bad writing by Craig, who wasn’t providing the full story :-) Which is why I put in a caveat about hearing only part the story.

        What I can see from your response is that you are providing an introduction to media relations, and you are providing a way in which that can be packaged to attract the buyer. As a consultant that has to be a good way of building business.

        I like coming on these boards to debate the issues and I think there is some discussion to be had about the nature of modern PR – and the way in which the various elements come together. So my comments were not meant as a criticism for your service. If people are buy your product that is a success.

        I think there is a bigger debate for PR on how we measure our success. And that is ongoing, and can be found all around us. By linking coverage to payment, then we are focussing on one aspect of the engagement process – convincing a journalist that we have a story that they think is newsworthy.

        You, me and Craig all seem to be agreeing that we need to be clear about what the objectives are, how we can help our clients and then assess our success.

    • I thought I’d reply from the horse’s mouth.

      For me the idea of providing the No Coverage: No Fee guarantee came from speaking to a fellow charity PR who had hired the services of a big-name PR company to help with a campaign launch. She said pre-launch she had been sick with nerves and worried that a no show in the media would mean her still having to pay the budget – but with nothing to show her bosses for it.

      In the current financial climate, charities are struggling to keep their heads above water, budgets are tighter than ever before and I wanted to provide a cost effective service to ensure they have a strong voice to debate the current and coming changes.. I also wanted to ensure the people they work with – those most affected by, for example, benefit cuts, were able to speak. But for many charities, PR and communications is an unknown for them. So I thought I’d give them a chance to try it – hence the PR Promise for their first piece of media work.

      It was not a reflection on the PR industry – forwards or backwards – but trying to ensure that charities could trust a service they may never have had any dealings with in the past.

      As for media relations being part of public relations – my ethos is very much based around strategic public relations and communications that works in conjunction with overall organisational aims, taking into account key audiences, and against SMART objective (as you can see here http://www.crancomms.co.uk/what-why.aspx). The size of the cuttings file matters less to me than where it is placed and in front of whom. So I’m with you on that one.

    • Jason, I see Christina’s replied to you, so that covers her point of view. I’ve seen some agencies offer free services but they charge heavy for the coverage – almost ad page prices – so they target the big hitters (relevant or not).

      I think, as with all things PR, it depends on what’s needed – is it a quick profile boost, an ongoing campaign, purely traditional PR without a social media aspect? It can be all of these things (or none of them).

      As far as I’m aware, Christina is trying to reach those who perhaps can’t afford the big (or any) in-house team and charities who may be stuck for cash. Knowing Christina, I can easily say that she wears her heart on her sleeve, so she won’t be into SME’s or charities for the quick buck or hit.

      I know Fatbuzz have toyed with a Freemium service – where they set up the digital channels and you only pay if you want content – and I’ve toyed with something similar myself. I think there’s probably room for it in the industry – after all all the other business models (pay by results, monthly retainer, one-off and so on) have survived this long that this can probably squeeze in there too – but companies need to be wary of what they want and who they are dealing with.

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