Online PR service to target small business

TWO years after a ‘company-making’ deal to supply online public relations services to an international mining conglomerate, public relations firm Mars Group has released an offering for small to medium-sized businesses.

The Mt Hawthorn-based company (it has just moved to its new headquarters in the building that housed the racy Slick Chicks restaurant) has released an online PR service catering to the small end of the market.

Among the services users can buy and download from .au are a PR kit, an editing service, a national electronic distribution service and a live consultation service.

Mars Group director Ray Sparvell said that, while the company offered PR in the traditional sense, not many small businesses seemed to want to go down that line.

“By using an online service the small business person is only getting charged for what he or she uses – rather than for a consultant’s time.”

“To send out a press release using a PR firm can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. With the online kit it costs between $200 and $300.”

A customer would download the press release kit, and then have a go at writing a press release for his or her business.

If necessary the customer could send that release to the editing service and then opt to have it sent out via the distribution service.

The only way a customer is charged on a time basis is if he or she uses the live consultation service.

That service is charged out at $5 per minute, with about 40 per cent of that fee going to the telephone provider.

Mars offers a news monitoring service that gives a free top 10 news service and an industry-specific news service that is available by subscription.

The business also is offering a web research service.

The company won the PR contract for Quadrem – an online procurement service for 20 resources giants including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – about two years ago.

Quadrem is now based in Dallas, Texas, and has offices around the world – including one in Perth.

Mars’ involvement with the program included naming the service, launching and branding it, creating the associated international advertising and ongoing marketing communications tasks.

Mr Sparvell said the name Quadrem related to the four corners of the world and Resources Electronic Marketplace.

Its three directors – Mr Sparvell, Steve Harvey and Andrew Murray – spent about a year setting up the online PR in the US.

Mr Sparvell said the Quadrem deal had indeed been a “company-maker”.

“It’s not everyday you get to strut your stuff on the world stage,” he said. “We were responsible for naming the service and shaping its corporate identity.

“It’s a complex procedure coming up with a name for a new corporate entity. We had to be able to register it and its website around the world and then meet all of the stakeholders’ expectations.

“And then you can strike some problems in different languages. What may sound fine in English can mean something less than complimentary in other languages.”

Mr Sparvell said some of the company’s previous work for Rio Tinto had helped give it a chance to bid for the job.

“But, as with any opportunity, you have to be able to deliver and keep delivering,” he said.

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