Founder: Amanda Vaisigano
A new approach to PR is aiming to turn the traditional PR agency business model upside down.
Amanda Vaisigano established Wellington-based Publicity Studio two years ago, after realising small businesses and startups often had no support for PR aside from the traditional monthly retainer model, which she believed was often unattainable and unaffordable for the small business owners who needed publicity the most.
Rather than locking clients into a monthly fee that could often range to thousands of dollars, Vaisagano has focused on creating affordable PR consulting packages, DIY-workshops, mentoring programmes and other resources, aiming to empower Kiwi businesses to take care of their own PR.
“PR is one of the most coveted aspects of business. It’s also the rarely discussed and curious beast that is often the force behind brands that suddenly skyrocket in growth. It’s a hidden lever that creates visibility and makes an unknown name, a familiar and trusted brand,” says Vaisigano.
“But traditional PR services have also been largely unaffordable for most small Kiwi businesses.”
By seeking to understand small business owners frustrations with PR services through focus group sessions, Vaisagano discovered they wanted an agency that was transparent with pricing and process.
“PR is an extortionately expensive industry and it can be really difficult for emerging and smaller businesses to find their feet. My research highlighted this loud and clear,” she says.
Alongside this, Vaisigano believes it’s common for small business owners to end up overwhelmed by the blurred lines of PR and the changing way consumers communicate.
“PR agencies are responding to the media climate and morphing into these creative-agency machines that produce and oversee anything from video production to influencer campaigns. This becomes quite overwhelming for the average small business owner.”
Because of this, she focused on creating products heavily focused on education for business owners, with fixed-fee packages and products around strategy, owned media content creation and media placements.
Vaisigano’s leap into her own business began after a decade of working in communications roles across the corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors, and just weeks after the birth of her second child.
“Before launching Publicity Studio, I was working long, inflexible hours, studying towards my MBA in the evenings and attempting to do what so many parents do – balance my family and work life. I knew it wasn’t sustainable for me and something had to change.
“Thanks to social media, I was witness to many local businesses doing wonderful things – they were innovative and creative. Within the space of a day I decided these were the people I wanted to help, and leapt straight into action enlisting the help of a business coach, writing my business plan and conducting focus groups with small business owners.”
She says that disrupting the way an industry has worked for decades has not been without challenges.
She was even told she was “crazy” by one ex-employer for putting her prices online. But by listening to her market and going with her intuition, Vaisagano says the bold move has paid off.
“Transparency is key when dealing with tight budgets. I set out to make the PR industry less secretive by talking to brands about how PR works and why their investment is important. It’s been hard work, but the kind of people I work with appreciate these candid conversations.”
“Being all things to all people is a recipe for mediocrity. By peeling back the areas of PR I specialise in, I’ve been able to scale my business and remain viable despite my lower fees,” she says.
For anyone looking to invest in PR, Amanda’s motto is ‘start somewhere’.
“Because PR won’t do itself. It’s a commitment to your business that needs consistency and constant nurturing,” she says.
“Small businesses don’t always have huge budgets to throw at PR, but what I’ve learnt is that they have an incredible opportunity for it. They’re creative, hardworking, and full of wonderful stories, which really is a PR dream.”