DALLAS and PITTSBURGH: In response to competitive pressure from freelancers and boutiques, Ketchum's Dallas and Pittsburgh offices have launched Catapult, a new program aimed at courting short-term, project-based business from small companies and start-ups.Through Catapult, Ketchum offers small clients a lower-cost, eight-week program that provides the foundation for ongoing PR strategies with or without long-term agency help, said Mike Breslin, VP and account supervisor in Ketchum's Dallas office. Catapult offers building blocks like position statements, media/analyst lists, logo conceptualization, media training, and a set number of collateral items such as press releases, backgrounders, and bios.
"Marketers at small companies have traditionally believed they couldn't afford to work with a top-10 PR firm, and until now, they often have been right,
said Teresa Henderson, SVP and director of Ketchum Texas. Her counterparts in Pittsburgh announced their version of the program in the first quarter, but are still ramping up, said Lynn Seay, a VP and account supervisor there.
While Catapult will be closely aimed at tech companies in Pittsburgh, Breslin said Texas staff will go after other types of business as well, despite the traditionally tech focus of the Dallas office, in the heart of what Henderson has called "the Silicon Prairie". The difference between Ketchum's 2002 model and the basic services many firms offered to young dot-coms two years ago, is that it doesn't involve retainers or the presumption that the agency relationship will continue after the setup period.
Competitors have said that such programs reflect recessionary realities not only for tight-budgeted companies, but for large PR firms competing for smaller clients they might not have pursued in the past.
In the current economic climate, freelancers and boutiques often become price setters when competing against larger firms, Breslin acknowledged.