First steps in hiring a public relations firm.
Many businesses consider hiring a PR firm – also known as a marketing agency, brand marketing firm, or public relations agency – without fully understanding what these firms really offer or will cost. For example, one client of mine told me they were hiring our firm because they simply wanted some “buzz” about their products. (I actually started using the phrase “buzz marketing” to describe my business because of this client’s turn of phrase.)
So let’s start with services. Here are some of the services a PR firm might provide:*
Article writing. Many services write and have published scores of articles for major trade publications; these articles weave in mentions of the clients’ products and services as solutions to various issues.
Social media (digital marketing). While my firm does not feel social media is the most effective tool for PR purposes in the B2B industry, it can be effective for B2C businesses. However, tools such as LinkedIn’s “Showcase” pages do offer promise for B2B companies.
Media relations. Getting on the good side of the trade industry media is the first step in promoting your company and your brand. Once those relationships are established, editors and freelancers come to us asking to interview our clients for their articles—a nice plug that costs the client nothing.
Special projects. This can include a variety of services. For instance, we have created eBooks, an endeavor that can be used to gather contact information for databases in addition to promoting a company, its products, or its services Brand development. One example of brand development is repetitively using certain words or terms to describe a client’s products. In time, those words and terms become associated with that company and their products.
Content marketing. With the future of trade publications looking a bit rocky, many companies are eliminating the middleman—trade publications—and creating their own publications and other vehicles for presenting content. This not only gets their news and information out to potential customers, but also helps promote their websites and improve search engine optimization.
As to pricing, some PR firms work on a retainer (meaning you pay a certain amount upfront and then pay a new retainer when those funds are depleted). However, I have found fewer companies offer that type of structure. Instead, many firms charge a set monthly fee that includes a specified number of projects on a predefined schedule (generally either monthly or annually). This type of arrangement seems to work out better for both parties in today’s PR environment.
Exact costs can vary. Many larger PR firms have minimum fees somewhere around $3,000 per month, if not more. Smaller “boutique” firms generally have a minimum of $1,000 to $1,500. From there, the sky is literally the limit depending on what the client wants.
Is bigger better? Clients typically get much more “bang for their buck” working with smaller firms.
Larger firms often have multiple offices in costly locations with large clerical staffs and well-paid PR professionals on their payrolls. Smaller firms have offices in lower-rent districts or staff who work from home. This means they have greatly reduced overhead, which also means more of your money goes to PR rather than paying for that big, fancy office and the support staff to run it.
Robert Kravitz is the president of AlturaSolutions Communications, a PR/Communications firm in Chicago. You can also find Robert on Google+ and Twitter
*Pertains most specifically to B2B Public Relations Firms