Technology PR

Does the average UK PR freelancer earn £60K per annum?

PR Week in its April 7th issue ran a feature on freelance PR in the UK.

It carried the following stats:

Number of freelance PROs in the UK = 3,300
Market for freelance PROs = £200m
Av daily rate = £400

From which you can deduce that the average freelance PR earns around £60K a year and works 30 weeks to earn that figure.

A quick straw poll of freelance PRs suggests that this figure is rather high – or there are some freelanc e PRs out there earning six figure sums – nice work if you can get it.

Current Affairs

What do the National Lottery, Paris Hilton, Eastenders, car insurance and train times all have in common?

It would seem this is what UK Google searchers were most interested in during February 2006.

Google UK Zeitgeist – Feb 2006

The full list, in order of popularity, here: (I’m sure this says something about the UK today, but I’m not quite sure what):

national lottery
50 cent
paris hilton
car insurance
train times
cheap flights
katie price

Technology PR

The alternative PR Week top 150

Last week’s PR Week carried its annual top 150 agency rankings. Much was made of the fact that agencies that had been excluded for the past 3 years due to SarbOx had been reinstated – though not based on real figures, but on estimates based on a PR Week created methodology. It also made great play of the fact that 90pc of the top 150 had seen fee income rises year on year – “testament to an ever-more mature and reassuringly vibrant profession.”

However, is it really time to break out the champagne?

Only a week before, PR Week ran a feature which showed that agency bosses’ biggest concerns were lack of good people, overservicing/unprofitable clients and the cost of pitching.

So – is the PR Week league table really a true measure of who is succeeding in the PR agency world? And is the current rise in fee income a dead cat bounce, concealing a rather more volatile and unsustainable infrastructure?

I may sound like a cracked record, but surely net worth and profitability are the real measure of sucesss, not top line fee income – turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and all that. In an earlier post, I referred to Duncan Chapple’s Plimsoll-report gleaned observations that most agencies’ pre-tax margins are a miserable 3.6%. Twenty percent of agencies price below cost. A further 44% of PR companies barely break even. The remaining one-third of agencies deliver real value, but their profitability is also threatened by consultancies that price below cost.

For my own interest, I looked at the net worth/profitability figures for a couple of well known agencies. It seemed to bear out the Plimsoll research. One agency that has seen fee income rise to £2m appears to have a net worth of a mere £2K. Another agency of similar size is shouldering nearly £500K in debt – and overheads (namely salaries) eat up everything else. On a PR Week interpretation, this would presumably be seen as a successful agency. But if I were an accountant, I’d be worried. It wouldn’t take much (such as losing a couple of big clients), to see these agencies in trouble. In fact even the agencies that appear to have the healthiest net worth are barely over the £100K mark.  As a crude measure, this is the amount of cash they have in the bank – losing clients, not getting paid on time, etc would impact even these apparently healthy companies – because wages have to get paid even if your clients aren’t reimbursing you. And if you have 30+ employees then you could be in trouble very quickly.

It would be an interesting exercise to see total the net worth of the top 150 to see what the overall value of the biggest agencies really are. Because it relates back to the issues raised in the previous week’s issue.

Why are good people hard to find? I’d suggest that what is meant by good in this context is people who have the necessary skills to meet the demands of clients. Red Consultancy CEO Mike Morgan argued that the PR industry is victim of a generational shift – namely that senior, experienced PR people are baby boomers, whereas the new crop of PRs don’t see it as a long term career – hence the churn and the widening gap between the grey hairs at the top and the inexperienced at the bottom.

However, is experience needed in a world that is rapidly bearing no links or resemblance to the past?

Experience counts when you have dealt with a situtation successfully in the past and can  apply that to a similar case in the present. Our PR/Web 2.0 present bears no relation to any previous era. So brains rather than grey hair is needed to deal with this new and chaotic present. But brains cost. Thus agencies are caught in the bind between trying to improve profitablilty, contain costs and yet deliver the innovative and creative solutions that clients demand – and get them to pay for it.

I was taking Xanax 1mg for three months. During the first month the dosage was three pills a day, then I reduced it to two pills a day.

So – would it be possible to put together a league table based on net worth/profitability? Given that this information is obtainable from Companies House, then for a little extra time and cost, the answer has to be yes.

PR – who said it was easy?

Technology PR

CRM = Customer Relationship Massacre

A recent story by Colin Barker at ZDNet shows that CRM failing to satisfy UK customers.

As Barker explains: "UK companies are still struggling to retain customers as poor service, with endless waits on the telephone cited as major reasons for customers to move, a major survey has revealed.
Some 65 percent of British consumers have withdrawn their custom because of poor customer service experiences and over a quarter (27 percent) vowed never to return, according to the UK Customer Experience Report 2006 from Harris Interactive. The same survey revealed that good service is extremely high on most consumers agenda with 78 percent saying they would give more business to companies that provided good service, indicating that good service is as important to many consumers as price."

The simple premise of servicing the customer properly appears to be being missed in a welter of technology and ill-conceived outsourcing/cost cutting exercices.

Technology PR

What happens when you get a bunch of journalists in a pub together?

Rupert Goodwins (again) at ZDNet explains:

The evening goes splendidly: a number of people are jumping a number of ships at the moment and new projects are all about, so the goss flows free and greasy despite containing nutritious meaty chunks. Dennis is starting an online IT publication, and has tempted a number of staff away from VNU and other places (not, as far as I can see, from CNET, which retains its vice-like grip on we happy throng), while down in the depths of the West Country Future Publishing is burnishing Project Steel. The consensus is that Future will do its usual very effective trick of coaxing ten staff into doing three jobs each, by way of compensating them for there being nothing else to do down there.

As the pub throws us out, there is an unsteady triage. Those who are definitely dead slouch off home, those who are a bit too lively (if this was Victorian scandal, one would say Lord V____) go to a strip club, while the uncertain decide to try and grab a final drink somewhere people keep their clothes on. I am a member of this latter crew, and we succeed in finishing the evening as we wish.

Technology PR

The fragmentation of attention

Fragmentation of the media. Innumerable ways of communicating with each other (I worked out I have around 15 different ways for people to get in touch with me), adds up to the worst possible context for preventing procrastination
– or rather, having ones attention removed from the job in hand.

Landline phone/home phone
Mobile phone
Email (office email account, plus various personal email accounts)
IM (AOL, MS Messenger, iChat)
(and lets not forget the time spent plouging through Netnewswire RSS feeds and CIX Conferencing)

Rupert Goodwins at ZDNet clearly has the same issue:

Rupert on procrastination

For anyone with a predisposition towards wandering attention, the Internet is a ghastly place. No matter how deeply embedded you are in your work, Alt+Tab will transport you more efficiently than the starship Enterprise to anywhere in the galaxy you fancy. And that’s it; you’ve lost context, concentration and focus. Everything in your head (which could well include whatever it is you picked up last time you alt-tabbed) dissipates into nothingness like a breath of cigarette smoke: it’s more disruptive than booze, dope or women. Forget the pram in the hallway, the sombre enemy of good art is the wireless router in the cupboard.

What I’d like to see is a little utility that monitors the number of times I move focus away from a document while I’m editing it. Each IM, each email, each slipping away to Firefox should be noted — and ideally, marked in the document by a tag of some sort. And then, perhaps, some sort of automated stick or carrot: each time I do it, my net connection slows down, or if I get to the end of a page without blemish a little door in the PC opens and a cold miniature of tequila is dispensed. Doubtless this could be adapted to the education environment — a small tube of glue, perhaps, or a ringtone.

Rupert has a point. Engineering time to properly devote some really focussed thought and effort to a piece of work is becoming ever harder – not only that, but even if you do manage to create something  worthy of the effort, will anyone actually pay any attention to it – because they are too busy having their attention diverted for all the reasons above?

Technology PR

What do you want from me?

David Maister wrote the definitive guide to running a professional service firm (if you are running a PR company, I’d say it is required reading)

This is a recent blog post on the subject of ensuring you get the right brief from a client or colleague.

Wise words indeed.

When someone gives you a task to do, say something like ‘I really want to do a great job for you, so can I clarify a few things?’ Most people will say ‘Yes.’ You can then be sure you understand the following details about your assignment –
1) The context of the assignment – ‘Please could you tell me what you are going to do with this when I get it done, tell me who is it for, and where does it fit with other things going on?’

2) Deadline – When would you like it, and when is it really due?

3) Scope – Would you like me to do the thorough job and take a little longer, or the quick and dirty version?

4) Format – How would you like to see the output of my work presented? What would make your life easier?

5) Time budget – Roughly how long would you expect this to take (so I can tell whether I’m on track or not?)

6) Relative priority – What’s the importance of this task relative to the other things you have asked me to do?

7) Available resources – Is there anything available to help me get the job done? For example, have we done one of these before?

8) Success criteria – How will the work be judged? Is it more important to be fast, cheap or perfect?

9) Monitoring and scheduled check points – Can we, please, schedule now a meeting, say, halfway through so I can show you what I’ve got and ensure that I’m on track for your needs?

10) Understanding – can I just read back to you what you’ve asked me to do, to confirm that I got it down right?

11) Concerns – before I get started can I just share with you any concerns about getting this done (e.g., other demands on my time) so that I don’t surprise you later?

Yes, your client or boss should be good at delegating or assigning work and giving you this information anyway. But the truth is that many people won’t have thought through what they really want from you until you guide them through their ‘either-or’ choices.

If you have not received answers to these questions, you don’t yet know what to do, and the risk of being judged a failure is high!

Don’t rely on your superior (or external client) to give you all this information. Pull it out of him or her.