So, the question is what you’re looking to get out of the PR firm. There’s something to be said about using them to develop brand materials, logos, websites, etc and help you develop a consistent brand image. For those who don’t know how to do it, or don’t have it all put together, there’s an advantage to working with a professional (though often, many of these things can be done piecemeal for much cheaper).
If you’re looking at a PR agency for press releases, interviews and other top of the line general publicity, it’s going to be really, really hard to make it work for you.
The concern here is that much of the top of the line publicity is mass market, undiferentiated publicity. Even digitally, it’s hard to narrow the focus down to the right target market; so you see this happen a lot more with mass genre kind of work (thrillers, mystery’s, some romance) for trad pub. Even then, you might note that keeping a consistent number of interviews is hard. In general, top of the line publicity generates awareness but not necessarily buying behaviour.
Consistency is important because when you’re looking at marketing and getting people to buy, you need to breakthrough the mass of information out there and everything vying for attention. That generally means repetition in your message.
It’s why you hear about a marketing strategy across multiple platforms. Where you go from say an interview, to a book announcement, to billboards to digital advertising to newsletters and being on Amazon, etc.
Touching people consistently, so that you drill into their brain and breakthrough.
It’s also, not surprising, very expensive. Which is why, as OldLady NumberCruncher mentioned, even trad pub doesn’t bother unless it’s going to be a big hit since the ROI is not easy.
A basic marketing agency or someone dedicated to advertising might be better; but you run into a problem of most ‘agencies’ aren’t geared towards indie publishers. Book sales are a low price, high volume environment with idiosyncratic marketing issues.
The ROI on this stuff is HARD. In general, most marketing agencies are going to charge you 3x their salary cost, to cover overhead expenses and their own profit. So, if they are paying people $30 an hour, you can expect a $90-100 per hour bill, which doesn’t even include your direct advertising expense.
There are a few I’ve heard are decent, but you might be just as well off hiring a PA/VA and training them how you are doing things directly.
Even if you make mistakes, the knowledge and mistakes you make will be internal lessons which you can, hopefully, bring towards the next iteration of your ads.
Mind you, there are certain advertising centers that are incredibly complex – specifically, AMS and potentially TikTok where trying to build a positive ROI campaign is not just difficult but staggered. That is, success is viable at various levels, but once you try to breakthrough that level to the next, it becomes progressively more difficult to do so.
That’s when potentially hiring a marketing consultant/agency/individual whose sole expertise is that area makes sense.
Of course, you need to hit that level first before your general return makes sense. And even then, expect there to be significant losses while you find someone who is able to get you to the next level.
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