El precio de la comunicación

The price of communication versus its value

Picture of Silvia Albert

Whenever I am faced with the task of writing about our day-to-day lives as communication consultants, I have serious doubts about whether or not I should be free to convey the information as I actually experience it. Obviously it is all about perceptions, but we all know what we are talking about when we talk about service, experience and, above all, quality.

My word is not dogma, I know. I speak only from my experience and with the sole objective of contributing something to the growth, improvement, consolidation and reputation of the communication sector to which I have dedicated my entire working life (and which is no small thing given my year of birth). And also, why not, to make an appeal not to enter into a spiral of ‘anything goes’ in order to get our own way.

Today, as we enter the summer season, it occurs to me that it is appropriate for us to talk again – as I have done on other occasions in the past – about the value of the work we do. And, logically, of their just retribution.

The proliferation of agencies of different sizes; of understandable and ununderstandable communication channels; the large portfolio of journalists affected by the ERES of the different media; the urgent need to achieve size at the expense of specialised services; the dilution of the barriers between marketing, advertising and public relations (in which everyone does everything and in any way)… are causing our sector to become a gibberish difficult to understand for the uninitiated and, what is worse, to respect. Why?

This is the key. A few months ago, we received the tender specifications for the contracting of the communication service, web maintenance and social networks of the technological clusters of the Community of Madrid. So far, so good. We are talking about 4+1 different clusters, each with a different management team, different content, different audiences… and to which we had to provide, in addition to the services indicated in the call, analogue and digital communication strategy, design, audiovisual production, coverage and promotion of events, workshops and conferences, SEO, monitoring, design and implementation of campaigns for different audiences, photography, evaluation report, strategy and management of social networks… In the tender documents a team of 7 professionals is required, although they gave the option of having the professional orchestrator (the one who does more than one thing).

It is embarrassing to even repeat the budget: €60,000 per year for the 5 clusters. This amounts to a monthly fee per cluster of €1,000. Who charges €1,000 per month for all these services? The competition has been awarded, i.e. there is an agency/consultancy/professional that has won this jackpot. In other words, it has accepted the budget and may even have lowered it in order to be competitive with other candidates. Are they paying to be able to include the Community of Madrid in your client list?

A question of quality

No matter how hard we try, the figures don’t add up. And here there are only two options. That there is something going on behind the scenes (it would not be the first case of a questionable tender or that a ‘modification’ is already planned, i.e. deviations from the award budget to make the work more economical for the companies awarded the contract) or that the quality of the service does not matter. If you pay with peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.

Consultancy services have to be remunerated accordingly. Just as we buy a product, let’s say a suitcase, we know perfectly well that the price is directly related to the quality of the product, its durability, its image and its service. Let’s not fool ourselves.

The problem is that we all know what a suitcase is, what it is for, what shapes it can have depending on what we want it for, the size and whether it does not go against good taste. However, not all of us know what communication is and what it is for. This post is not about that, for that you have many posts on this blog to enlighten you. This is about what is a fair price for our work and why people accept such reckless casualties that it is laughable. Is it ignorance? Has communication lost the real value of its impact?

We have already talked about the consequences of the insistent refusal not to ring-fence the budget of the competitions when we call on several agencies. The most repeated phrase is “we don’t have a figure” to which later, after the presentation of your proposal, they add: “it’s out of our budget”. Excuse me? Would it not have been more sensible, professional, fair and logical for them to say from the outset what this budget was that we are supposed to have gone outside?

Of course we are in a free market and everyone can value their work as they wish; but, let’s not fool ourselves, there are certain limits that should never be crossed because the only thing we are achieving is that our work is less valued every day; that our specialisation is undervalued and that communication consultancy is, in short, something anecdotal instead of strategic.

And the only ones responsible are ourselves.

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