by Lisa O’Neill, founder of Breakaway Public Relations
Thinking about bringing in the support of a public relations firm?
Not certain if it’s the right time, how to budget, what to expect? If so, here are words of wisdom gleaned from nearly 30 years in the industry that may help.
There is absolutely no doubt that PR at some level is a smart investment for most businesses and organizations. There are certain communications objectives that only public relations can deliver. Building credibility and influence, launching a new business or dealing with a crisis are just a few examples of where smart PR is the best, if not only, solution.
However, strategic, results-driven public relations takes time, consistent effort and, therefore, money. Before you develop your PR budget, make sure you understand 1) your communications objectives and 2) PR deliverables versus other marketing tools such as digital marketing, advertising or direct mail.
To make things somewhat confusing, the lines can get blurry between public relations, digital marketing, event and content sponsorships, and more. For example, Breakaway Public Relations often either spearheads or coordinates efforts on everything from organic and paid social media to event marketing and email campaigns. This is where the size of your budget, your internal marketing resources and communications priorities come to play.
Key indicators that your business is ready to bring in outside PR expertise:
- You have time.
This usually means you have a designated, in-house individual, preferably a senior-level communications pro, to manage the PR person or firm. Effective public relations requires consistency and frequency over time. Your firm or solopreneur requires regular care and feeding, and can only produce when in a transparent, collaborative environment.
- You’re launching or re-branding a business, service, product
and you have the budget to promote it over the course of a year (minimum). Building buzz, even among a very specific group, requires frequent messaging. PR representatives help to develop a calendar filled with any combination of feature/trend story ideas, news announcements, bylined articles, special events, etc to keep the news pipeline filled.
- You have a budget.
Although usually more affordable than paid advertising, think of the PR budget in paid advertising terms. I can’t tell you how many businesses think they can generate meaningful results from just a few thousand dollars here and there. A single press release and follow-up is not a PR plan, it’s a one-off tactic that won’t take you far.
Most PR firms work on monthly retainers over the course of 12 months.
Some firms, especially smaller ones or independent professionals, will operate on project fees that extend anywhere from three to nine months.
Large firms can charge $15K per month and higher; mid-sized firms with mid-sized clients may hover around $8-15K per month. Fees are less at smaller firms. Note that even nonprofits should have a budget unless they have formed an in-kind sponsorship or pro-bono arrangement with a PR person or firm.
- Your business has a proven track record with success stories and metrics to share.
A big chunk of public relations involves media relations. Media, and even influencers (top bloggers and social media influencers), require real news or at least newsworthy stories to tell.
- You understand that PR will build credibility and awareness, yet building sales is usually an indirect result.
Your public relations firm could place a killer, full-page story in your industry trade or monthly city magazine, but that does not necessarily equal a bump in sales or donors. Or, if the placement does generate some type of income, it could be an ebb and flow. Earned media WILL increase brand awareness and your reputation, especially as these placements continue. Plus, these stories can make the sales process more fruitful if properly leveraged.
- You want PR for the right reasons.
In a nutshell, don’t seek a PR firm to make you or your business a household name. As I read in an article in The Observer, “Ego-driven PR is not a strategy; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money.” Your PR firm can drive attention and build recognition for your brand, as well as set you apart from the competition. Fame is fleeting and often earned for the wrong reasons. And if you find yourself with the wrong kind of fame – i.e., negative activity and exposure – PR is your best course of reaction via crisis communications.
- You have patience.
It’s a fact: public relations is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no magic formula on length of time or investment required, so find an experienced, ethical PR representative with knowledge of your industry who will be a trusted partner. Your ideal PR partner listens closely, asks a lot of questions, isn’t afraid to tell you “no” (with explanation) and considers themselves an integral part of your success.
Breakaway PR bases their services using a very customized approach tailored to your specific needs. If a few of these indicators hit the nail on the head, and you’d like to discuss further, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-761-4567.