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This is Why No One Values You

By David Berry: I'm a member of a highly-engaged Facebook group called PR, Marketing and Media Czars. If having the word 'czars' in its title didn't give it away, this group has more than a handful of angry egomaniacs who think the PR industry, in particular, is the center of the universe. In fairness, though, I've made several great connections in the group, from people who are there to make great contacts and do great work.

The other day, a woman posted a rant about a low-ball offer ($300) she'd received on a project to name a new brand or product. She signed off her rant with "what is wrong with people??????"

Well, I responded. Like, is it a small-time brand? Did they already provide you with research and direction and thought-starters on names they like? Are you obligated to see the name selection to the finish line, or are you just furnishing an idea that they'll build upon?

And if you've ever used a thing called "Facebook," you can imagine the size of the fire storm that came with it. Hundreds of comments flooded in. Some were saying "no one knows anything about value anymore!" and "bet they'll hire some 20 something know-it-all to do it and get crap work!" 

In the internet age, it seems that everyone's first instinct is to be pissed off for no good reason, but here's what all of them missed - they never bothered to discuss the value of the project. And the woman never bothered to articulate her own value, either.

On its face, naming a brand sounds easy. "Let's call it ThunderCandy!" See? I just did that in five seconds, and I'd gladly accept $300 for it. 

But the company likely needs an expert who does more than that. And it's on the professional's shoulders to articulate the depth of the process and the value of its outcome. Plus, if you asked the people in the comment thread what it should cost, they'd tell you between $3,000 - $8,000. So how do you get from $300 to $8,000 (or even have a shot at it)?

Here's how I'd go about it:

  • Re-Explain the Ask: Show the client that you understand the request. That you know who they are and who their target user is. Who the brand is today and who they aspire to become; what makes them different. They don't just need a name. They need an identity. A hook. An identifier and a mental image maker. And a name has to go hand in hand with visuals and graphics, which is something else they might need.
  • Explain the Process: There's research involved. Potentially a lot of it. Use cases of not just brands in general, but competing brands in the space, including those who've succeeded and those who haven't. Why have the winners and losers arrived at their respective lots? Was it branding related or something else? Do you plan to test the name in focus groups or surveys? Who is going to tabulate that data and make sense of it? There's a lot of work there.
  • Give Them Past Examples: Have you done this before? If they're interested in hiring you for it, there's a good chance you have. And with that, you have case studies on how you approach this work and an existing model for the outcomes that the client can expect.
  • Explain the Deliverables & Timelines: Give them the confidence that says "I understand what this project is and I know what it'll take." Honor their internal deadlines, approval processes and so forth, and acknowledge certain milestones along the process so that they know you'll get the job done on time and to their satisfaction.
  • Now, Lay Out Your New Fee & Justification: You've just given the prospective client a lot to consider that they probably haven't thought of. Here is where you tell them that you'll include all revisions, status meetings, in person meetings, conference calls, finished documents in proper format, etc. And then you have demonstrated your value - and why a much higher fee for the project is justified.

I'm by no means a hard ass, but I told one commenter in the thread "if no one - NO ONE - is willing to pay your fee, then it doesn't matter what you think your value is. You're just worth less than you want to believe you are."

The sooner you can get through the sting of that truth, the sooner you can get on your way to understanding how to articulate your value in the first place.

-DB