When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

As the holiday season approaches, product PR becomes more important than ever. Competition from major brands, standing out from the crowd, and capturing people in a buying mood are all great reasons to do product PR during the holidays.

 Now you might ask, “which holiday season do you mean?” The answer: whatever holidays are most important to your company or brand.

There are a few key reasons why product PR is so important during the holidays, and why Avaans is now offering Product PR Holiday Sprints.

Competition from Major Brands

Most of your competitors won’t invest in holiday PR, but if you do, it gives you a considerable edge when people search for your brand or product.

You simply can not outspend the major brands with advertising, but using PR evens the playing field a bit, especially since a lot of journalists prefer to showcase smaller or boutique brands, or at the very least want to include one as an alternative to more well-known brands. It’s also an opportunity for smaller brands to showcase diverse founders too, something big brands just can’t do.

Ever since iOS14 rolled out, which allows consumers to opt out of allowing apps like Facebook and Instagram to track browser history, CPG and DTC brands have seen a considerable decrease in ad effectiveness. And to make matters worse, the massive brands have far more data and the ability to buy ads on a multitude platforms, so it’s nearly impossible to compete during the holidays when digital advertising costs surge.

In contrast, when you secure PR beside major brands in holiday gift guides, your brand receives a trust bump, so you’re benefitting from all the brand recognition of the larger brands, alongside the brand recognition of the outlet.

People are in the Buying Mood for Product PR

First, people are generally more receptive to marketing and advertising during this time of year.  Holiday PR is an ideal way to capture people when they’re in the mood, and in the moment.

The average person spends $1,463, during the holidays (Deloitte Holiday Survey)

There are a few things that contribute to this increase in spending. First, people tend to travel more during the holidays and spend money on things like gas, hotels, and food. Second, people buy gifts for their friends and family, They’re also more likely to be thinking about gifts for loved ones, which means they’re more likely to pay attention to products that might make great gifts. . And finally, people tend to spend more on themselves during the holidays – maybe they buy a new outfit for a holiday party or get a massage to relieve stress.

Less than half of consumers are worried about higher prices on discretionary purchases (National Retail Federation)

Stand Out from the Crowd with Product PR for the Holidays

The holiday season is a busy time for everyone, so standing out from the crowd is essential. And that means meeting your consumer where they’re at. Consumers are searching for gift ideas and they value gift guides because they trust journalists to test the products (they do).  99% of products never receive any press, by simply securing press, you’re already standing out. And you can leverage your press all year long.

Avaans Media now offers PR Product Sprints. Designed for CPG and DTC brands, these micro PR campaigns are perfect for brands with ambitious plans, but not ambitious budgets.

 

 

Maybe you’ve never hired a PR firm before, or maybe it’s been a while and you’re just unsure of what a PR agency costs. Either way, you’re asking yourself, “how much will a PR firm cost me?” Since PR usually falls within the marketing budget, let’s start there.

To grow your position in the marketplace, a good marketing allocation is about 15% of revenue. In 2022, the average marketing budget for B2C brands was 13.7% of revenue, and for B2B brands, it was about 10% of revenue.

So if you’re an average company, and you’re looking to maintain your position, you’re probably spending in the range of 10% of revenue. If you’re looking to dominate, your budget should be higher. Ambitious startups typically allocate between 12-17%. A typical breakdown might be that 1/3 of the budget is advertising, 1/3 of the budget is content, and 1/3 of the budget is PR. Large international agency budgets can be $380,000 or more annually, while a mid-range agency budget typically clocks in at $156,000-$180,000 annually and a smaller agency budget would be $120,000 per year, a mid-range freelancer could be anywhere from $36,000-$100,000 a year. If you’re a CPG or DTC brand with a marketing spend of under $100,000, then you might consider consumer product PR sprints, which feature micro contracts that align with key buying seasons. Hiring a PR agency is an investment, but considering PR converts ten to 50% better than advertising, PR is indeed a place where the ROI pays off.

 

So what goes into a PR agency’s fees?

 

According to Muck Rack’s 2021 State of PR report, the number one cost to a company to PR is the agency, which makes sense because unlike programmatic ad spending (a typical minimum is programmatic spend is $25,000/month), PR agencies rarely have a minimum spend or activation fee requirements outside their retainers.

PR agency rates increased, and in 2020, the average PR agency CEO billed $417 per hour, while VPs clocked in at $319 per hour and Account Managers billed $256 per hour. The average blended rate was $240 per hour. It’s safe to say that if your PR team has executive PR experience, and your agency spends an average of 10 person-hours per week on your account, your monthly retainer will be around $13,226 per month.

If you require more executive hours, your fees could go up. If you work mostly with a junior team, your rates could go down. Oftentimes, fees are different depending on your strategic objectives. For example, if you want to keep a firm on retainer for a few calls a month, and no proactive media outreach, your annual fees may be considerably less. If you are trying to secure investment or you’re pre IPO, you may find your fees are on the higher end of an agency’s fee structure.

It’s a balance to strike your budget with your goals, but when asked, I always give the same advice to CMO’s and startup founders. In 2020, 45% of companies increased their PR budget. If your budget is $400,000 or more per year, hire an agency that does $20 million+ in revenue. If your budget is $180,000 per year, hire a boutique PR firm, with less than $10 million in revenue. If your budget is $60,000 per year, don’t hire an agency, hire a freelancer.

Odwyer PR’s annual report shows rates increased considerably between 2019 and 2020, so if your agency didn’t raise its rates, you’re fortunate.

Agencies are notoriously reluctant to share minimum retainers, but in 2013, several agency executives did just that with PR Observer, an industry publication.

“To properly scope a client program and assign the proper team support, we feel $15,000 – $17,500 per month is a reasonable starting point.”Anne Green, President & CEO, CooperKatz & Company, Inc.

“Our retainers range from $7,500 – $50,000 or so. Crisis costs are different and generally charged by the hour with a $20,000 minimum.”—Ronn Torossian, Founder & President, 5WPR

“We have some clients that pay us $100,000 or so per year, some clients that pay us more than $100,000 per week, and many clients that pay us $100,000 or so per month.”— Mark Hass, President & CEO, Edelman United States

“Our clients generally pay between $15,000-$30,000 a month depending on the workload.”—Stu Loeser, Founder & President, Stu Loeser & Co.
So what’s typically included in a bespoke retainer rate? Well, again, that may depend on each agency’s specialty. For example, if your agency specialized in digital communications, you may find that social media content creation is included, but media relations are not. But the following services are a good rule of thumb to expect within our typical PR agency retainer:
  • Strategies about how to stand out from your competitors using PR
  • Internal and external communication strategies that match your growth goals.
  • Campaign development and creative activations for marketing opportunities.
  • Media relations, and securing regular media coverage, speaking engagements.
  • KPI and business impact reporting.
  • Copywriting such as press releases, speeches, white papers, and branded journalism.
  • PR crisis planning – but not necessarily crisis management.
  • Partnership strategy and potentially management such as cause, social impact, or purpose-driven PR initiatives.
  • Executive training, including media training, interview prep, and research or executive ghostwriting.
  • Content strategy for video, social media, and inbound leads.
  • Content creation oversight, including social media, photography sessions, and video development.
  • Poll or research development, implementing the poll may or may not be within the agency’s retainer.
  • Peer agency coordination, such as with branding or advertising agencies.
  • PR campaigns that “make the news,” are designed to create word-of-mouth or media opportunities.

For a complete list of what we would include in your PR retainer, reach out to us and tell us more about your business and your goals.

Hiring a PR agency is an investment, but considering PR converts ten to 50% better than advertising, PR is indeed a place where the ROI pays off.

Because of the competitive nature of customer acquisition, hyper-growth DTC (D2C) brands are always looking for ways to improve word of mouth and awareness. So it’s no surprise that a lot of fast-growing DTC brands of all sizes are asking, “should we join the metaverse?” The answer to should DTC brands join the metaverse naturally depends on several external factors. From an awareness and PR perspective, there are some considerations before DTC brands joining the metaverse.

What Have You Learned From Watching Other Brands?

Brands like Nike, Warner Brothers, Gucci, and Wendy’s are already in the metaverse. Have you watched these brands closely and experienced their ventures? CMOs and founders intrigued by the metaverse and its opportunities should be sure to sit back and watch a bit. What worked, what didn’t? What inspiration can you take from these digital experiences? Notice many of these ventures are co-branded, which is a great way to double the potential audience size – so what partnerships would enhance the digital introduction of your DTC brand? Gamers are already intimately familiar with NFTs and Virtual goods, so what games appeal to your audience? From breakfast cereal to gaming super powers to fashion add-ons there truly are endless ways for DTC brands to join the metaverse.

Have You Tried Virtual Goods Yet?

46% of consumers haven’t bought a virtual good yet because they don’t understand how it works and 35% might try it if it comes from a brand they trust (full report here). Those two considerations are a lot to unpack. But if your customers are curious early adopters, AND they trust your DTC brand, a great way to test the waters is to experiment with virtual goods (NFTs) like music, memes, or even artwork.

If your customers are curious, but midrange adopters, maybe you set the stage and start educating your consumers a bit, adding to that trust bucket so when the day comes for your brand to fully invest, your customers are ready to come on the journey with you. . The key to intriguing your customers to start their virtual good collection is to pair it with another passion or interest. Virtual goods like avatars or virtual event tickets are easy enough to understand to most consumers, even if they aren’t ready to use them or engage with them yet.

There’s a tremendous value in being the trusted brand that takes your customers by the hand to introduce them to the digital landscape that will make social media look like a flash in the pan.

What Will You DO Once You Get to the Metaverse?

With something like the metaverse, the end goal isn’t to BE there, it’s to activate there. Given that for most consumers, the metaverse is just some vague notion they don’t know how to even access, you’ll need to take stock of where this lands on your priority list. If your customers aren’t in the 18-34 age range of typical NFT purchasers, then this is a pretty big consideration.

Now, if your only goal is to be an early mover, and you have the bandwidth, that is the financial and team resources to do so, by all means, go for it, it’s an interesting brand move right now and it may even get you some press. Media coverage over brands with placement in the metaverse won’t garner attention for long – the metaverse will be as common as having a website and social media. And yet, even now, simply being in the metaverse itself doesn’t garner media attention. You’ll want to activate in some interesting, notable way. The options are endless, but keep in mind that your audience is likely to be small, but starting with a metaverse experience is a great way for the brand and its customers to connect in the virtual world.

 

The “Ready Player One” vision of the metaverse isn’t quite here yet. For one, adoption hasn’t reached a tipping point yet, but it won’t be long. Today’s consumers are now used to moving into new platforms every few years and the metaverse will follow a similar trend of other platforms: younger people will start, but soon their parents will follow, then their parent’s friends. Instagram was the domain of the youthful for a long time, then its users expanded; for TikTok that process was much faster some of the most vibrant TikTok hashtags belong to GenX, and they’re in their 50’s already. The metaverse is coming, tomorrow’s brand will be there.

As a digitally forward PR firm, we can help you maximize the digital world. Give us a call. 

Tech PR needs to be reinvented. Telling a great tech story today differs from what it used to be.

For the past 15 years, tech has been leading much of the conversation, so with a few press releases and a TED Talk, an upcoming and coming CEO could set the agenda. Zuck set the “let’s make an interconnected world” agenda. Steve Jobs set the “intuitive design” conversation. And while there is plenty more innovation headed our way – tech itself is no longer the story.

Emerging tech companies need to connect to the conversations their community is having or going to have in an enormous way. Why?

Today’s reporters need stories that capture the moment, not navel-gaze into the future. 90% of tech writers are curious about backend technology, but won’t write about it. Most outlets only have one tech reporter, that poor person receives over 500 pitches per day and an uncomfortable number of them are still using buzz words like “innovative”, “disruptive”, and the worst of them all, “unique.” These words now cause journalists to glaze over because they’re so overused and increasingly unbelievable. The question comes down to “WHY?”

 

So if Tech Itself is No Longer the Story…What Is?

Technology companies need to tell stories about how they’re connecting to the stories consumers are watching. Great tech stories often start with core values and it isn’t just consumers who want to know more about how you’re solving the world’s actual problems, it’s investors too – 88% of institutional investors are evaluating ESG (environmental, social, governance) with the same scrutiny they give operations and finance.

Let’s look at what people are searching for on Google:

How to Tell a Tech Story today

Look how emerging tech doesn’t even register compared to climate change and racism. There are far more reporters covering these emerging trends than the tech itself. Tying your tech story into the zeitgeist, that’s where tech companies become indelible.

Here at Avaans, we write a lot about purpose, what it is and why it’s important to fast-growing companies. Even though we are a boutique firm, we have guiding principles as well.

That’s because not only does a clear purpose give the company and the brand extra internal fortitude, but it allows consumers to connect with your storytelling on a deeper level.

Regardless of stage of growth, having purpose is the path to longevity and a connected customer base. It’s also a great launching pad for purpose-driven PR.

Digging deep to find these stories may take some time and candor about corporate culture – but these are the stories that stick. These are the stories that create memorable brands. You can’t start telling this story too early.

 

What Makes a Great Tech Story Today?

Every story needs to be:
Relevant
Inevitable
Believable
Simple

As you look at these components, you may think about how your technology fits into these buckets; resist that urge for a moment.

The first two are the lowest hanging fruit, the last two can take years. Take, for example, Salesforce. When they wanted to grow, they made a simple but audacious claim: the end of software. Establishing relevance and the inevitability of tomorrow’s cloud-based world were the simple parts. Notice how they made that claim about the user, the client, not themselves, and it was simple. The stories about how this changes business and the world are immeasurable. But, Caryn Marooney who worked with Salesforce during those early days says “it still took us years to establish true believability,”.

Set your expectations accordingly. Expect to get two to three of those messages across in the early stages. As you grow, as you show more credibility, and as trust between your company and the media increases, “Believeable” will come. Trust isn’t something manufactured in a boardroom, trust is earned.

Today, Salesforce continues to tell stories relevant to their customers and the media that aren’t about technology. Salesforce recently claimed that the “Salesforce economy will create 9.3 million jobs and $1.6 trillion in new business revenues.” The white paper is chock full of bite-sized data that an entire story can be built around the new economy, what this means in today’s labor shortage, the threads are endless and the study gives legs to talking points that can last a year.

 

The Case for Tech Storytelling Over Trade Shows

Let’s be clear – we’re big fans of tech tradeshows and conferences. Many a product has gotten media from its standout strategies at CES for example. But the coverage around CES, like any tradeshow, is diluted and noisy. Reporters at conferences are looking for clickable headlines: they want big dollars, ticker symbols, known brands.  At tech trade shows you need to stand out with remarkable, word-of-mouth activations, to give extra lift to your story – or you’ll probably share the story with 1 or 2 competitors. Sure, a trade show can give you a lift, and it can be an excellent place to connect with the media – but you simply can not rely on a trade show to do all the heavy lifting. We so often see companies make a trade show their launch or the key message for an inordinate amount of time. The fact is, trade shows give a temporary boost, but great tech storytelling goes on for decades. 

Here’s more good news: the more simple your key message, the longer your tech storytelling will last. Counter-intuitively, simple messages last longer and provide more room for interpretation.

 

A colleague of mine once asked “Why does everyone want to go viral (with their content), I want to go cancer with my content, I want it to last a long time and fight to stay,” Tech storytelling is the same, tapping into current media trends and the mindset of the customer. Core values, Purpose, a solid mission, and knowing your next 3 steps will ensure your tech story starts out great. 

If you’re looking for a tech PR agency that goes the distance with you to find the great tech stories of today and tomorrow, then drop us a note, we’d love to dig deep with you too.

 

The cannabis industry is growing at a rapid rate, and cannabis-related products are being introduced to the market daily. As a result, cannabis PR firms have become increasingly popular for cannabis businesses looking to establish themselves as thought leaders in the cannabis industry. The first step to getting cannabis PR is hiring a cannabis PR agency.  Three considerations when hiring a cannabis PR firm:

 1) Strategic Expertise

For cannabis-focused PR agencies, there’s been unprecedented growth in recent years and it has led to an increase in consolidation and new entrants who may not provide clients with the level of strategic expertise that typically takes much longer to develop. As millennials continue driving change within organizations across all industries, we will see more PR agency consolidation and increased hiring among independently owned cannabis-centric agencies as they need help to build their industry-specific practices.

This means, the team working on your PR may be new to PR even if the agency isn’t. Before you sign on up with any PR firm, get to know the team you will work with on the day-to-day.

 

2) Media Relations Expertise

The cannabis industry is entering an era of mainstream media coverage like never, meaning cannabis PR firms that don’t show cannabis media relations expertise risk becoming irrelevant. Traditional PR agencies will need to develop cannabis-specific expertise with niche media outlets in order to remain relevant. Cannabis news outlets are a unique subset of the traditional cannabis industry trade press and the next generation cannabis-focused PR agency needs to help clients get into these specific cannabis publications.

While cannabis industry media coverage is important, you’ll also want a firm who can demonstrate cannabis PR in lifestyle, business, or niche communities to ensure your reach gets to the audiences who are most likely to respond to your brand.

“In addition, cannabis-oriented public relations agencies have popped up everywhere from Colorado to Canada,” says Roger Stonehouse, CEO of Stonehouse Group, a global financial services firm specializing in capital formation for cannabis companies. “Some cannabis-oriented PR agencies have been effective, others less so.”

3) Identifying Target Audience

In order to deliver high enough ROI, cannabis business owners need the ability to identify the target audience and create a message that will resonate. To develop a cannabis PR campaign that is an investment, not an expense, businesses must be able to understand their target audience and deliver a targeted message. Cannabis-focused public relations professionals can help cannabis businesses do just that by developing a cannabis public relations plan that delivers results for your company and the investor community as you establish legitimacy through thought leadership.”

Media outreach efforts should begin with promoting articles promoting brand visibility, positive cannabis industry news, and cannabis company milestones.

“If you’re starting a cannabis-related business and want to reach the cannabis consumer, make sure your cannabis PR firm has established media relationships with leading cannabis publications,” says Stonehouse. “This will increase the likelihood of your press release or client announcement making it into one of these sites and give you access to cannabis consumers.”

Effective cannabis-centric PR firms understand how to develop client messaging that resonates with target audiences and cannabis media outlets. Cannabis-focused PR professionals can also help cannabis businesses secure valuable cannabis media placements that provide high visibility within the niche publication and then leverage this coverage through social content (influencer marketing) and public relations outreach efforts on behalf of the cannabis brand to mainstream media outlets like the Associated Press, Reuters and/or Bloomberg News.

“However, it’s critical cannabis businesses don’t neglect the potential impact of ancillary cannabis industry coverage in publications like Forbes, Fortune, or Inc.,” says Stonehouse. “By elevating cannabis category visibility in leading business publications cannabis businesses can begin to change negative perceptions well outside the cannabis space.”

“Cannabis public relations firms need to focus on building relationships directly with consumers,” says Stonehouse. “After all, without people buying your products or services it doesn’t matter how good your cannabis PR firm is. By focusing on the cannabis media, cannabis influencers, and cannabis consumers, cannabis-centric PR firms can help cannabis brands cut through the noise and provide an interesting story that resonates with their target audience.”