How much does PR really cost?

Can I afford PR? This is a question that we often hear from business owners. You don’t have to have ten thousands of pounds to spend per month, however, you will need to have a healthy budget and be prepared to commit long-term. Plus, PR agencies come in all shapes and sizes so it’s important to find the right one for you. 

In this blog post, we take a closer look at the typical costs of hiring an agency, what to expect and the benefits of outsourcing your PR. 

Is your brand PR ready?

Before you even consider working with an agency, make sure that your marketing strategy and efforts are up to scratch - otherwise, your PR won’t function effectively. Everything you do, including your PR, should be a reflection of your brand and your messaging. Being featured in a publication is great, however, you don’t want to drive hundreds of visitors to a website that is not visually beautiful or user-friendly - this can risk putting potential customers off. The same goes for your social media, newsletter, digital marketing and similar. 

The difference between PR and marketing: in a nutshell

While two separate entities, PR and marketing go hand-in-hand and it’s important to understand the difference between the two. To put it simply, marketing is paid media, while PR is earned media, and it’s key role and purpose is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their awareness, recognition and credibility. 

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Money, money, money

Typically retainers range between £1500-£4000 per month, however, there are a few smaller agencies that charge less. If you’re looking for a more 360 approach including more strategic campaigns, then your monthly retainer will increase. 

When you’re in touch with your shortlisted agencies it is worthwhile asking what their minimum retainer fee is straight away so that you know whether it’s within your budget or not. 

Make sure you also know what additional costs may be incurred by the PR agency and how they will charge/invoice you for these. These can include expenses, admin or third party costs. A few questions to ask regarding budget are:

  • How do they charge?

  • What are their payment terms? 

  • Do they work on a retainer basis?

  • How do they report on time, activity and results? 

By clarifying all of the above before you sign anything will ensure that you avoid getting any surprises. 

One key thing to note is to not let the size of the agency fool you or be the deciding factor when choosing your agency. It is easy to assume that a bigger agency will generate more results for you, however, while a big agency might seem appealing and exciting if you have the budget, remember that your brand will still be assigned to a smaller team of account manager (s). Unless your budget is huge, the brands with the biggest budgets are often likely to be prioritised over yours. 

This is why smaller, boutique agencies shouldn't be overlooked. With smaller agencies, you are likely to receive more attention which will make you feel more valued and ‘seen’. An agency that places more focus on you will also help create that personable relationship. Plus, there’s usually a lower staff turnover and you’ll be able to get more for your money as they don’t have to cover the overheads of bigger agencies

How do you find the right agency for you?

There is not a case of one size fits all when it comes to PR agencies so it’s important to do thorough research and align yourself with an agency that is a reflection of your business. Once you’ve found a shortlist of suitable agencies get in touch to arrange for an initial call or meeting to find out more and don’t forget to prepare a list of questions. A few crucial things to consider are: 

What kind of budget do I have? Does the agency reflect my business (size, team etc)? Who are the founder (s)? What types of brands do they work with? Who have they worked with previously? What kind of services do they offer? Do they have a specialisation? Are they able to offer a bespoke package? What results have they achieved? What are their website and social media like? What do you think of their approach? 

From the initial meeting throughout the process, pay attention to how the agency communicates with you and treats you. This is someone that you will be working closely with so it’s important that you share the same values.

Also, be wary of agencies that over-promises and that says that they can guarantee you X amount of coverage each month. If something seems too good to be true then it probably is. 

The key is to work with an agency that is on the same page as you: an agency that truly gets your brand and what you’re trying to achieve, is excited about your product and is dedicated to generating good results for you. 

The benefits of hiring an agency

While PR is definitely something that can be done in-house if you have the time and the resources, there are a few great benefits of handing your efforts over to an experienced agency. An agency will have first-hand knowledge of the industry and publications, and strong press relationships. Editors move around quickly and it is nearly impossible to keep up with the fast-moving media landscape if you don’t have anyone dedicated to manage and stay on top of this. 

Having someone constantly pitching your brand and products to key press will ensure that you’re maximising your efforts. This will increase the effectiveness and reach of your PR which again will lead to more results. 

Managing expectations

Compared to marketing and advertising, PR lacks any quantifiable and specific indicators for ROI. This means that PR is a little bit trickier to measure. Do not let that worry you or put you off though. The benefits of PR (when done well) are huge and is elementary if you wish to drive your brand forward and secure longevity. 

Because PR is less ‘measurable’ than it’s counterparts it’s important to set reasonable goals and be clear about what you can expect and what you can’t from your agency. 

Do expect: 

  • To sign a contract for at least six months: PR takes time and the longer you stay with an agency the more results you will see

  • A great relationship: Clear, honest communication and a collaborative approach are key. The same goes for feedback when needed. Your agency should be viewed as an extended member of your team

  • Regular updates and transparent and detailed reporting

Do not expect:

  • Immediate results: PR’s cannot control the timing of media coverage

  • To be connected directly to the press contacts: There’s a reason as to why you’ve hired an agency and crossover when it comes to communication with press is never a good idea

  • For your agency to perform work outside the agreed scope of work/responsibility in the contract

It’s a long-term thing

We know that hiring an agency is a huge investment for you and that you’re eager to get your brand out there as quickly as possible, however, it takes time to build a strong rapport with press and coverage won’t happen overnight. We always say that you should allow for a minimum of three months with your agency to give them time to get results. Not all pieces of press result in sales or traction but don’t let this dishearten you. Good PR will create a cumulative effect, as your press visibility builds up and will bring fruitful long-term benefits. 

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PR storiesRosie Davies