Barb Oakley couldn't afford a full-service public relations firm when her company, FireFly Flashcards, was a start-up in Utica,Mich. The company she'd approached said a six-month campaign would cost $19,000, which she didn't have. So Oakleyproposed a different way of working. She asked the PR agency if it would take her on as a client but charge just bythe hour. She figured she could use help in brainstorming ideas, editing press releases, and targeting publications, but that shecould do the rest by herself.

The PR agency, Hermanoff & Associates, in Detroit, said yes. Oakley met with principal Sandy Hermanoff every two monthsto think up new angles. Oakley drafted the releases, Hermanoff edited them, and Oakley typed them up and mailed them out.The cost of the campaign ? which got FireFly into local and national newspapers and magazines ? was a more manageable $500for Hermanoff's time and $250 for mailings and follow-up calls. "It gave us a far more professional effort at a reasonable cost,"says Oakley.