How Much Does It Cost to Hire a PR Firm?

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Tips for Hiring a PR firm

The cost of hiring a PR agency will depend on many factors, including your goals, your budget, and your agency selection. Consider some of these factors when considering whether a PR firm is right for your business. If you are contemplating the cost of hiring a PR firm, chances are you already know the importance of establishing your business’s image. Positive PR can help increase brand recognition, loyalty, and community goodwill. However, you might be wondering, how many does it cost to hire a PR firm?

How do you know what’s fair and what rate to pay? PR firms often have minimums, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but what factors does a PR firm consider?

What To Look For in the Early Stages

PR Agency Fees

Don’t be afraid also to ask questions about their fee structure. Cost to hire a PR agency and your budget is a big factor in deciding whether to hire an agency or keep your PR work in-house. A PR firm should be transparent when discussing what they charge and how their fee structure works. You may also want to ask how long it takes their team to craft a press release or set up for an event. Understanding how many hours a typical project can take may help you evaluate whether a PR agency is cost-effective for your business.

There is a huge range of pricing for PR firms. Solopreneur firms, or less experienced PR firms, might charge around $4,000 monthly, depending on the client and the market. Larger firms, premium agencies $25,000 or more monthly, and boutique firms often charge between $12,000 to $18,000 monthly for their services. There are also ways to save on agency fees, so work with your agency to discuss how you can jointly achieve more efficiency.

To help foster a successful relationship with a PR firm, you need to communicate your goals upfront and set your expectations early. Doing so means that you and the firm start on the same page and can track results throughout the relationship. Meeting with a company before you hire them allows you to gauge how comfortable you are with the firm and how they will manage the reputation of your business.

Pay to Play: In Context

There is a difference between pay-to-play and placed content. Placed content is content whose space you directly purchased. Placed content is usually an additional fee on top of the cost to hire a PR agency It can have a credible and authentic role in your marketing and PR efforts from a content strategy perspective.  However, businesses need to be on the lookout for a potentially dangerous practice called pay-to-play. Pay-to-play is a phrase that refers to professionals making undisclosed or under-the-table payments to journalists or media companies for publishing a client’s story.

Placed content is ethical as long as the client understands what they’re getting. Pay-to-play is unethical.

The value of journalism is its independence. The value of PR is respecting this fact while also creating opportunities and access for clients and journalists to have a mutually beneficial relationship. All media coverage, or earned media as it’s often called, is always at the whim of an editorial decision. A newsroom assesses the merit of stories and gauges how interested their audience will be in the information that they provide. Paying for coverage is unethical and potentially deprives an audience of newsworthy content.

It is also dangerous because media outlets have a duty to report to their audience when a spot or story includes paid content. Paid content includes commercials and ads, and sometimes even space for product or CEO thought leadership. Potential consumers know that an advertiser has paid for the information provided when they view a commercial. Pay-for-play is essentially duping an audience into thinking that the content is unbiased. If a PR firm purchases airtime under the table, it misrepresents the impartiality of the content and it is a disservice to the client.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for sponsored content and paid placement. It’s just important to understand the differences and integrate them into your plan accordingly.

Setting Goals and Expectations with Your PR Firm

Do your homework ahead of time before committing to a PR agency. Sit down with your team and outline your goals and expectations. What are you hoping to gain out of your relationship with a PR firm? How much of your budget will you dedicate monthly to a PR firm? Do you expect your PR firm to visit your office? You need to be honest when answering these questions and establishing your objectives. When your goals are firmly set, schedule meetings with various PR agencies.

When consulting with a PR firm, consider asking these questions to assess whether the firm will be a good fit:

  • How would they approach your program?
  • What do they truly excel at – and does that fit your expectations?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How do they measure success?
  • How will they go about generating leads and coverage?
  • Do they know how to manage crisis situations?
  • How will they help you reach your goals?

The PR Cost Factors within Your Control

Your PR Budget Should Match Your Business Goals

The cost to hire a PR agency should align with the impact you expect your PR firm to have on your business goals. If you’re hiring a PR firm to grow sales, then the expense of your PR firm should reflect the importance of that on your brand. If you’re pre-IPO, then your PR budget should reflect the importance of that milestone. If you’re looking for the average cost of hiring a PR firm, you should look at PR firms that meet average expectations.

For example, if you’re in maintenance mode and need a responsive rather than a proactive PR agency, the cost should be less than that of a proactive media relations and media placement campaign, which can reach billions of people. A pre-IPO and post-IPO strategy is also critical.

While PR is an important tool for growing your business, don’t expect to increase your sales 100% by investing an additional 5% in PR. Indeed, there are ways to track revenue from PR.

What Industry Are You In?

Businesses in fast-growing or emerging industries like CleanTech, HealthTech, or Cannabis can also affect PR pricing. If your industry is regulated or could be regulated, a PR agency will need to take additional steps to consider your company’s future needs.

What is Your Timeline?

The timeline can affect the budget—if you’re asking an agency to scramble, it will cost more. Effective public relations is a long game. Unlike advertising, PR isn’t a turn-on-and-turnoff situation. It’s more like a train: It takes a bit to get moving, but once it’s moving, it gains speed quickly.

Why Experience Matters in PR

What are you actually buying when you hire a PR firm? Talent, judgment, and experience, these factors are the number one reason why experience matters for successful businesses are so important. Since almost 60% of PR agency fees are allocated to staff, that’s one reason why PR is so expensive – talent matters.

Why is PR so expensive research

USC Annenberg Communication Report 2023

 

Established PR firms with track records of success tend to charge more for their services. Hiring experienced PR professionals adds innumerable value; a firm’s reputation is often established through its employees’ skill and experience level.

Some agencies have very young teams, while others have more executive-level teams. Each has pros and cons. Some top PR firms employ former journalists and experienced PR professionals, while others hire very junior team members.

One advantage of a seasoned, expert-level PR team, besides experience, is their understanding of the media landscape – who is likely to write about your company and why. Maybe, more importantly, seasoned PR teams can guide you in creating more opportunities in various ways. They also understand what media companies are looking for regarding story ideas. They can craft attention-getting press releases that stand a better chance of being seen and picked up instead of being tossed in the trash heap of yesterday’s news. Seasoned PR experts know the best people to follow up with after issuing a press release or event notice. Those with experience in the industry understand the intricacies of the business, and their experience will likely add to the cost of hiring a PR agency. They are masters of communication who know how to get a message across and which avenues offer their clients the best chance at positive exposure in the media. Understanding the nuances of marketing and portraying a positive image are honed skills needed for your business’s PR firm.

 

At the end of the day, hiring a PR firm is an investment, but only if you find an agency whose goals align with yours. When deciding if a PR firm’s prices coincide with your company’s budget and needs, consider your goals, specific industry challenges, and the expertise of a firm’s staff. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions because the reputation of your business may depend on how your PR agency responds. The right PR agency can be an excellent investment in your business.