Tag Archive for: budget

I have a friend who once described PR as the “dark arts,” and while I completely disagree with that assessment, what he was getting at is he really didn’t understand how PR works. Reputable PR firms are the opposite of “dark arts”; they’re very transparent. There are some tools of the trade that PR agencies keep close to themselves, but really, there isn’t anything magical about HOW PR works; it’s just a specific combination of relationships, hard work, strategy, and culture. And that specific combination takes a long time to acquire, requiring commitment to the craft. But why PR is expensive isn’t because of human hours worked. Ultimately, there is a price to the human capital, but that’s not really why PR is expensive.

So, Why Is PR Expensive?

PR is expensive because the outcomes are so important and relevant. PR’s lasting value is in improving a brand’s reputation like no other marketing lever can. For companies wanting to be acquired or IPO, your PR investment ROI could be hundreds of millions of dollars.  PR outcomes range from high valuations at IPO or during capital raises to making advertising more efficient and reducing time to sale for both B2B and B2C customers. In short, it’s not unusual for PR outcomes to be more than 10X the investment. To 10X investment, the most impactful PR aligns with trust and loyalty, which requires consistency.

For many ambitious companies, the long-term benefits of PR are sometimes forgotten, and yet that can be considerable. Due in part to high marketing budgets during the pandemic, brand valuations increased dramatically in 2023 – from 6.3% growth to 9.7% growth.

Your reputation is your most valuable asset.

Why is PR so expensive research

Data from USC Anneberg Communications Report 2023

What is a Good PR Budget?

When considering your PR agency budget, your budget should match your goals. If you’re trying to grow your business, your overall marketing budget and PR should increase.

As of the fall of 2023, according to The CMO Survey, the average marketing budget was 10.6% of budget and 9.2% of revenues. For companies with $10-$25 million in revenue, the average spend was 15.5% of revenues. So, if you’re looking to be above average, your overall marketing budget should be higher than that. For companies under $10 million in revenue, the number was 19% of revenue. And consumer packaged goods reported spending 25% of their budget on marketing and PR.

If you’re an ambitious brand or fast-growing company, your budget could be 25% of revenue – is that aggressive? Yes. It is. Again, that’s a budget to grow considerably. A good rule of thumb for your budget might break down like this: 20% content, 20% advertising, 20% PR, 20% SEO, 20% activations.

While your distribution might vary depending on your goals – for example, if you’re raising money or looking for a M/A event, you might skip advertising all altogether and move that to PR and content. Alternatively, if you’re a consumer brand,  you might increase the content and advertising portions and focus your PR budget on certain campaigns. Emerging industries may need larger PR budgets because they need to create public and investor trust.

Based on the rates of PR agencies your budget may be higher or lower based on the experience level of your agency team. Naturally, less seasoned agency teams will be less expensive. But it’s probably more important for you to budget based on your goals.

If you’re ambitious or seeking investment or pre-IPO, your marketing budget should match those very important objectives and allocate 12%-17% of revenues or target valuations to marketing, with a third of that, at least, going to PR. Depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C company.

How Does PR Make a Company More Competitive?

68% of CMOs reported expecting more intense customer rivalry in the coming year. In B2B segments, that number increased to 73%, with 61% expecting more innovation. By themselves, even new products don’t excite people without a story. If your company is new, you need to define a compelling story, and you need to tell it over and over. Whether you’re a tech company, or a consumer product company, PR is a key part of how people discover new products.

According to Nielson, global CMOs said brand recall was the #1 most important goal in media. Advertising is ubiquitous, and advertising is an important part of any marketing budget. After a while, ads blend in a social feed or even on TV. But if your product or CEO is in a magazine, people remember that. They might not even remember WHAT was said, they’ll remember that they saw it there. Brand recall is critical to the sales funnel. If people can’t remember your company, how will they purchase from it?

PR’s lasting impact is its value, including the fact that earned media lives forever. Less than 1% of companies ever get PR for their company, so by being in that top 1%, you’ve already differentiated yourself. Can you start a company without PR? Absolutely. Can your company thrive without PR? No. There are no household names without consumer product PR or B2B PR at the table, period. There are no industry leaders without PR.

When the economy is unpredictable, it’s challenging to plan. Yet, plan you must. Even when you love your PR and marketing agency, during these times, it’s tempting to cut marketing and PR budgets. I know both sides of this fence. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 75% of my career, including during 9/11, The Great Recession, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Having witnessed the fallout from slashed budgets, I’ve learned that taking your foot off the gas doesn’t slow the engine. It kills it. You can’t eliminate marketing and increase sales. What you DO need to do is shift marketing strategies. These 4 ways to save on your agency budget will ensure you gain or maintain valuable market share while reducing marketing and PR agency fees

If you like your marketing or PR agency, keep them. You can negotiate with your existing agency; hiring a new agency has hidden costs. Eliminating a well-oiled, top-rated agency will cost you productivity and results when you need it most. If things are going well, check out our advice from leading agency owners about reducing your agency budgets. If you’re hiring a new agency, these tips will help you get off to a great start and a budget that allows for growth while you work efficiently with your new agency.

 

1. Content: Make It Sticky

When times are good, brands with ambitious goals do whatever they can to get meaningful results faster. But if you’re reducing budgets, you should focus on the longer-lasting things. As a colleague of mine once said, “I don’t know why everyone wants to go viral. I want my content to be cancer. I want it to stick around and be hard to get rid of.” This is the mindset to be in when trying to reduce costs.

Two types of media stick around forever: owned media and earned media. Your owned media is any channel you control, where create 100% of the content, like your blog or your email marketing. Your earned media appears on channels you don’t control or create, think magazine articles, and (organic) reviews.

Blog posts and earned media are the superglue of sticky marketing and PR levers. Because they DO last so long, and they are customer-facing, these are excellent areas to focus your PR agency on. The ROI will pay dividends now and in the future. 

There’s a third blend of content emerging – and that’s contributed content. Sometimes there are fees associated with contributed content, and it always goes through editorial control, but it is a highly credible way for you to (mostly) control the messaging. This type of content has another advantage: thought leadership. Activating your thought leadership is key to its stickiness.

But longevity is only one benefit of this content; repurposing is another. For example, blog posts that are listicles are excellent SEO boosters, and you can use a listicle to generate many social media posts, same with an article that includes your product.

You want your stickiest content to be the best quality. If you’re reducing your budgets in other areas, now is not the time to hire an untested blogger referred to you by your nephew. Now is the time to focus your budget on doing what you do well. Very well.

Highly useful, sticky content is the most valuable and should be a budget priority.

2. Strategically Reduce the Scope

Chances are your agency is providing you with a suite of services. Instead of eliminating high-value output, focus your budget on those items to reduce your scope.

Take a deeper look at what your agency did this year that worked for you. How did they excel? While you’re asking yourself this question, think about it in the “Make it Sticky” content but also in the areas where narrowing in on the scope would provide outsized value.

One way to secure high-value PR is product-driven PR and bringing thought leadership and awards programs in-house, or vice-versa. 

Another idea, instead of working with 15 different micro-influencers, you work with one on a strategic year-long campaign. Maybe your branding company could produce long-form content only and you can craft social media posts in-house.

Instead of a campaign every quarter, work with your agency to develop one excellent, well-thought-out campaign throughout the year and focus your efforts on making that campaign exceptional. This brings me to my final recommendation. 

Another area that can save your money is fewer meetings with your agency. While meetings are essential, especially early in the relationship, this area could drive some savings if you’ve been with your agency for a while. 

3. Plan Ahead

Nothing is more expensive than last-minute. If you’re reducing your budget, planning can save you a lot of money. For example, if you’re planning on a video shoot, secure your videographers and editors well in advance with a solid deposit and you’ll find it easier to negotiate the rate.

The same goes for your agency contract. Sign early regardless of whether it’s a new-to-you agency or one you’ve had for a while. Signing early gives you an edge in negotiation. If you like your agency and you will commit to a longer term, you’ll be able to command better rates, and even lock in “economic downturn” rates for two years.

Press releases can be purchased in bulk as well. So if you’re planning on several announcements, if you buy in advance, you can save thousands of dollars. 

4. Strategy: When They Zig, You Should Zag

To save money and get more bang for your buck, redefine your calendar. Shy away from the dates and times of the year when your competitor is most likely to do something, and instead select a campaign period when you can own the conversation.

Alternatively, re-thing your share of voice KPI. When dominance is your key strategy, you want to track it against your biggest aspirational competitors. If simply staying present is your goal, track your share of voice against a competitor nipping at your heels, one who is your peer and one who is aspirational. For your aspirational competitors, your strategy should be to cede some of your share of voice so you can squeeze in on your competitor’s territory. For your peers, you want to maintain equal, if not better, footing, and for the one nipping at your heels, you want to own the conversation so they don’t squeeze in on yours.

5. Maximize Partnerships and Internal Initiatives

Now is a great time to double down on successful partnerships or find new ways to align for new partnerships. Be creative in the ways you align, and you may be able to create a news worthy story just by creating a collaboration. Another way to maximize your budget is to turn your storytelling focus on highly valued stories the media is already writing about, like purpose-driven initiatives. These types of stories are much easier to get a lift on than the traditional “thought leadership” strategy that most of your competitors will flock to.

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.

Bet your starting to think about next year’s social media marketing plan. And as importantly, where will social media marketing fall into the mix? Will there be more? Less? The latest Advertising Trust report from Neilsen may offer some insights to help you in your planning process.

One of the strongest reasons to increase your social media is the the number one source of consumer trust and action isRecommendations from people I know”.  Trust and action are often hand in hand, and we can’t discount the value of trust, but its also hard to measure. However, what creates trust and what creates action can be different. For example, consumers report that humorous ads resonate most with them. We know that humor is a powerful tool, especially in social media. It might be more powerful than cats, dare I say (GASP). However, humor is rarely what makes people take ACTION.

The action taking piece is the one I’m always most interested in looking at more closely. And its really no surprise that word of mouth leads the pack. Ads on social networks have a lower trust score than they do action score. That’s actually true for several advertising types. With respect to social media, there are two key take aways:
1)  Use social to build trust and be very aware of what motivations exist for taking action.
2) The power of your tribe: when they share what you’ve got, its a more credible source. So be very aware of what and why people share on social. Tribes deeply impact our actions.

Now, the challenge with a report like this is that these results are all self-reported. The challenge with self-reporting is that people don’t always really know why they do what they do. I know, YOU always know why you do what you do. Or do you? Your motivations may not always be clear even to you. That’s why I started Captivation Motivation Training. 

Just remember, what type of message you use impacts trust and action. Decide what you’re trying to establish in every single post. Be purposeful in your social media practice and you’ll find that you can actually be more human.

 

 

 

PS: If you’d like to download the Neilsen Report for yourself: click here

This post originally appeared on Akamai Marketing