what to expect when hiring a PR Firm

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 much does it cost to hire a PR firm?

In general, smaller, less experienced PR firms might charge around $2,000 per month, depending on the client and the market. Larger firms, premium agencies, and boutique firms can charge upwards of $12,000 to $25,000 per month for their services. Businesses in fast-growing or emerging industries can also impact PR pricing. How do you know what’s fair and what rate to pay? Consider some of these factors when looking into whether a PR firm is right for your business.

Why Experience Matters in PR

Like in any industry, when it comes to PR, experience matters. Many top PR firms will employ former journalists and experienced PR professionals and for a good reason. Former journalists tend to have a wealth of contacts in the media industry. These people also tend to have contacts at non-profit organizations and with community leaders, in addition to others.

These contacts are extremely valuable when it comes to pitching stories for their clients.
Former journalists also understand what media companies are looking for when it comes to 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. Former journalists also tend to know the best people to follow up with after issuing a press release or event notice.

The same skills and connections can be true for experienced PR professionals. Those with experience in the industry understand the intricacies of the business. 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.

Understand that while experience is important, it can also be costly. Established PR firms with track records of success tend to charge more for their services. Hiring experienced PR professionals can be costly. Most often, a firm’s reputation is established through the skill of its employees.

Why Pay-to-Play PR is So Dangerous

Careers in PR and journalism have a natural connection. It’s why so many former journalists tend to expand their careers into the PR realm. 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 in exchange for publishing a client’s story.

This behavior is generally considered unethical. Local media outlets should be viewed as a public service. 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 both 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. A potential consumer knows that the information provided has been paid for by an advertiser when they view a commercial. Pay-for-play is essentially duping an audience into thinking that the content is unbiased. However, if a PR firm purchases airtime under the table, it misrepresents the impartiality of the content.

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 are you willing to dedicate monthly to a PR firm? You need to be honest when answering these questions and establishing your objectives. When you have your goals firmly set, schedule meetings with a variety of PR agencies.

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

  • Do they have experience in your particular industry?
  • 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?

Don’t be afraid to also ask questions about their fee structure. 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.

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.

At the end of the day, hiring a PR firm can be worth the cost, but only if you find an agency whose goals align with yours. When deciding if a 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.