How much does PR cost anyway?

Businesses don’t always understand how PR is costed. I try to explain what we need to take into consideration when costing work.

Firstly, it’s important to point out value. The value of public relations to business – it should be considered essential and as a long-term investment. Here’s what the Chartered Institute of Public Relations says about the value of PR.

“You can’t choose whether or not you want public relations. It happens whenever you communicate with others. Left alone, you may achieve good or bad relations. However, by using PR effectively, you can build strong relationships and maintain a sound reputation at all times and in all circumstances.

“Perhaps ironically, it is during difficult economic times when you are looking to steel yourself for the challenges ahead, and are contemplating cut backs in certain areas, that you should be looking to invest in public relations.

“Whether your customers, suppliers, employees and regulators chose to buy your product or service, or to be associated with you depends on your reputation – and, perhaps more importantly, how they rate it compared with your competitors. Public relations will help you to build the reputation you want and to differentiate it from others to give your organisation a competitive edge.

“With this in mind, the argument for doing more rather than less communications work in a downturn appears to be a ‘no-brainer’. When times are good there is money to go around but when things become tight people become far more selective about what they spend money on and who they want to give it to. In the battle for market share, and amongst the buzz of competing voices, you are going to have to communicate more ‘loudly’, not less.

“Money spent on PR is money well spent, so long as you get what you need from PR and the best advice available… ”

“The head of PR is perhaps one of the most important people in a company and a good chairman will have them by their side. They are critical for managing the brand and save millions in advertising; people talking about your company is much more important than anything.” Sir Richard Branson

What comes into costing public relations?

  • Have you provided a clear brief, outlining the business, warts and all?
  • Have you explained the short, medium and long term business objectives?
  • Have you identified challenges and opportunities for your business relating to the above?
  • Do you know your audience? I mean really know them?
  • What data and analytics do you have?
  • What PR objectives have been set, relating to business objectives? I don’t mean write us a list of tactics. The PR objectives must be SMART and must relate back to what the business is trying to achieve
  • Do you know the purpose of your business?

These are just a few questions, some of them tough, which you will need to be prepared to answer. If you can’t answer some or most of them, then the chances are you need public relations to help you define your business, so you do know the answer to the question.

In order for PR to work for your business, you need to be open, honest and transparent with your PR consultant/team/agency. They need to know EVERYTHING so they can be prepared for any eventuality.

Other points to consider:

  • How experienced and skilled is the practitioner or team?
  • Do they have excellent credentials, such as being a Chartered Practitioner?
  • Do you have risk and crisis plans in place?
  • Do you have processes set up or will new ones need to be developed?
  • The practitioner will need to develop an outline strategy before being able to give a cost for the work – it’s the only way to estimate how long each element will take
  • There will be a period of research and planning – this is not wasted time. It’s what allows the practitioner to be able to have the insight to inform the strategy, ensuring it’s relevant
  • Did you tell the practitioner what your budget is? Often businesses don’t and can be taken-a-back when they receive a quote. It’s better to be upfront about what budget you have available so the practitioner can then prioritise activities to suit
  • Are you speaking to a large agency with mounting overheads? As an independent practitioner, I don’t have these large overheads for offices, equipment and large staff

Some practitioners will give you an hourly or daily rate and tell you they will bill you for what they have worked. In my view, this demonstrates a lack of coherence and strategy. If a strategy is agreed and the work plan has been developed from this, then you should be able to work out a project fee or retainer fee, based on the work to be done. Yes, sometimes things run over. You and your consultant can work out how you want to be billed for additional time.

This fee should also allow time for monitoring and evaluation. PR work isn’t static and it needs to constantly be adapted to changing circumstances. Monitoring and evaluation should be carried out regularly. Be sure your PR practitioner/team/agency used AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation Framework from the outset. Afterall, evaluation starts at the beginning! See AuraTalk issue 4 for AMEC’s framework.

When working out what value PR has added to your business, you will need to relate all activity back to the goals and key performance indicators set. Did you achieve what you set out to?

So, how much does PR cost?

The long and the short of it is, different practitioners and agencies will charge different rates, have expertise in different areas and potentially will take a different amount of time to deliver on certain aspects of a strategy. There is no silver bullet. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. I have tried to inform you about the things that will impact on your PR cost. The important thing to focus on is the value of what you can achieve as a business with PR being integrated into the management and running of the business.

If I can help you define your business, target audience and create a strategy which will help you achieve your business objectives drop me an email

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