Ian Monk: Don't slash fees - you're worth it

It goes against the grain in any competitive industry not to use every weapon in the armoury to fight off rivals and seize whatever prizes are up for grabs.

In our industry, competing to provide the best option is a crucial rationale of the pitching process for agencies and of interview procedures for in-house job candidates.

In more normal economic times, one effective weapon to see off the competition is price. Agencies can win close-run contests by undercutting rivals. Equally a good candidate can occasionally sway the interview panel by accepting a lower starting salary.

In these days of meltdown, though, price may be a weapon best set aside in the interests of our industry.
Clients and in-house teams are all frenetically seeking value for money. Many come to our industry with small budgets, less intention of spending them, minimal respect for our craft and absurdly inflated ideas about the return on investment to be derived from it.

In short, despite the vast strides made by the industry, too many of those seeking its services still view it as a cottage industry. The recession has brought to the fore among some an attitude that our services can be bought on the cheap, that we remain poor relations to a declining advertising industry.

In this context price cutting to win business can bolster negative perceptions of our profession and damage our industry’s reputation.

PR is no more capable than other enterprises in a free society of bucking the markets. But it doesn’t need to help destroy its own intrinsic value by committing collective hari-kiri and taking a knife to its own worth.

I have recently heard of reputable small agencies taking on high maintenance clients on retainers of £750 per month. Take off the tax, the cost of invoicing, chasing payment and they must be operating at a loss from the first phone call.

Practitioners should look at the cost of their time and the value of their services and charge accordingly. Slashing fees wounds us all. If you aren’t worth a reasonable rate then you shouldn’t be in the business.

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