The subject of public relations agencies and the average cost is a complex one because the fees associated with PR services are not set in stone. Depending on your brand and what it needs, your PR agency of choice may provide a one-time service for a big event, or they may step in to handle post-crisis management for a set or hourly cost. If you need more comprehensive PR work to grow your image and your followers, to rebrand, or to handle the communication and publicity stream for the long-haul, you may be paying monthly retainer fees.
Each of these public relations scenarios requires a different strategic approach, and the associated costs are variables. It is impossible to give a black-and-white answer to questions around how much a PR agency costs. Ultimately, it depends on what you need.
PR Agency Cost And Variables
Instead, we can give you a very generalized overview of standard PR costs and the variables that play into those costs.
If you are a small company or a newer kid on the brand block, you may find it wise to hone your DIY public relations skills, reserving the PR budget for special, unique, or more-than-you-can-handle events. Once your brand is big enough, and you’ve outgrown your DIY PR britches (meaning, you ain’t got time for that) you’ll know it’s time to branch into the bigger PR arena.
Visit our post What Does a Public Relations Agency Do for more specifics about the services we talk about below. A basic rundown of PR services looks something like:
- Reputation management
- Media relations
- Media training (coaching your peeps on how to interact, engage with, respond to media)
- Social media
- Community outreach
- Event planning
- Speech writing
- Content creation
- Market research
- Crisis (or post-crisis) management
- Product/service launches
Most PR agencies bill clients based on estimations of the number of hours per month it will take to get the job done. As a result, PR agency cost is charged via:
Retainer Fees (PR Agency Cost For The Longer-Haul)
If your company is looking for a long-term, heavier hitting PR approach, such as reputation management, public communication, and outreach, content creation or internal copywriting, etc., the agency will probably require a retainer. The current average monthly retainer fee for PR services ranges from $2000 to $25,000 per month. That said, large corporations spend hundreds of thousands per month on industry-recognized public relations firms.
Note that retainer-based services are all longer-term in nature. You can’t manage a brand’s reputation for a month or two; it takes exponentially longer than that to develop positive brand recognition, a reputation, and to grow that reputation over time. At that point, reputation management requires consistent marketing, public outreach, and communication to maintain a media-worthy brand presence.
In some cases, the retainer is a set price, and together you’ll negotiate what you get for that fee. So, perhaps your $2000/month retainer fee will cover specific services: a few blogs per month, at least one top-tier media feature, a press release, and so on. Other times, larger and more successful firms may require a base retainer just to work with them, billing on top of that for services or output they provide for you.
Since monthly retainers may be a bit beyond what small or medium-sized business budgets can accommodate, especially earlier on in the brand development phase, many companies start out using PR agencies in a more a-la-carte style.
Perhaps your company is capable of handling the day-to-day PR needs for now, but an upcoming launch, promotion, or event requires more work than the in-house team can provide. In that case, PR agencies can be contracted for a single project or two at a time.
You will sit down to discuss the project scope. Together you and your PR agency will come up with a list of services or output required. Once you’re in agreement, you will get an estimate for project-based services. It’s a one-and-done deal, so to speak. The good news about using a PR agency to support an upcoming project or event is multifold.
First, your own team gets to continue doing what they do best – without the added stress or workload that takes away from their well-matched and experienced offerings. Secondly, you get to experience a professional PR approach to handling your projects, providing the opportunity to observe ideas and tricks you never would have thought about or been able to execute in-house. Finally, you gain great exposure to the PR agencies available in your area, forming relationships that will ease the way later on when you’re ready for broader scope or longer-term, retainer-based work.
Then, just like any business, a PR agency may charge you by the hour. The average hourly rate ranges from $125 to $500 or more. These rates are set by who did what for a given project or service. As you would imagine, junior staff are billed at less per hour, while more experienced managers and executives are billed at higher rates.
Just as a set retainer can be a gamble for PR agencies who may underestimate the hours/costs required for a given account, hourly rates can be a gamble for your company. You may balk at a monthly retainer fee, only to find the hour rates wind up equalling or exceeding those. Finding a PR firm you trust is key to feeling good about the payment method you choose at the start.
If you’re reticent to commit to a monthly retainer fee, but it looks like your account may require expensive hourly rate totals, the agency may offer a payment-by-result package. This is like a middle ground to soothe wary clients because you pay a lower base fee (sort of like a retainer) and then get billed by the month, according to stats-based results.
Most reputable PR agencies do not offer a “pay-per-placement” and if they do, it should be a red flag not to work with them as they may use some shady methods to get you coverage. That said, some contractors do offer this as an option but if they don’t get traction for your product, service, or brand launch after a full day of pitching may not be incentive to pitch that 9th hour. With a retainer or project fee, you can rest assured pitching will continue no matter what.
We’re Here When You’re Ready
On the fence about whether or not you need a professional PR agency by your side? The creative team at Segal Communications would love to hear your concerns. We’ll show you how we work, what we’ve done for clients in the past and present, and how our agency can tell your story in newer, bigger, and more marketable ways. Contact us and we’ll start dreaming and scheming together.