When you retain a public relations consultant or firm, you want to make sure you’re using your PR budget wisely. This requires some work on your part in order to properly evaluate your current, or a prospective, PR agency.
As much as you’d like this to be free, along with Starbucks, computers, cell phones, and all the other essential things you need to run a productive business, great talent is never, free. As my great mentor, Ken Rutkowski always says, “a professional is expensive but an amateur can cost you a fortune.” To that end, you need to know that although a great PR pro comes with a price tag, the return on investment can often pay you back tenfold.
Step 1: Establish clear business goals before you speak with your agency. Going into the meeting, you want to clarify why you want coverage and what you’re doing that warrants it. Even the best PR firm will only be able to get you limited coverage when you’re making an announcement regarding a new member of your team, unless your company is doing something that’s greatly affecting an industry or matters to a large audience.
We’re working with several such companies, including Kukun, a company that’s changing the face of home renovation with a platform that provides consumers with a way to manage the process of their project and hire the best service providers required for the work. Kukun not only affects consumers planning home renovations, but also the professionals that do the work. Yes, the company’s business is a digital platform and marketplace, which isn’t groundbreaking technology; however, the industry its technology disrupts is innovation worthy of coverage, even if it’s announcing the release of a new feature.
The business goal may be getting new users who have upcoming home renovation projects. The company will be able to see if they receive more signups during the weeks after coverage in various publications either in the sheer volume of new users or by asking users during signup where they heard about the company.
Step 2: Evaluate your budget and know what coverage is worth. Perhaps you want greater name recognition. In that case you may measure the ROI of your PR by the increase in visits to your website, engagement on your social media, or shares of articles that cover your brand.
Your budget determines the number of hours an agency devotes to your account. Ultimately, it determines how much time they spend researching publications to find the most relevant media outlets, pitching your business to editors and reporters, and following up to get you coverage.
Step 3: Identify a point person who will work directly with your PR agency and the time the employee will devote to working with your agency. Yes, we’ve said this before and we’re saying it again: you need to be responsive to their requests for updates on what you’re doing. They need you to respond when they ask for a comment for an article or someone’s availability when they’ve got a reporter who wants an interview. This holds true no matter how much you’re spending on your PR, but is especially true for smaller companies working with boutique agencies. Smaller businesses are less likely to have an internal person devoted entirely to working with your PR agency.
Step 4: Let’s be clear, your agency gets you earned media coverage. You don’t pay for coverage in media outlets, but the hours it takes to achieve this coverage comes at a price. That price is billed as a monthly retainer.
- A boutique agency will charge between $3,000 and $8,000.
- Mid-range agencies typically charge between $10K and up.
- Bigger brands need an agency that can handle all their coverage needs and typically start at a minimum of $20K per month.
You get what you pay for so make sure you consider the hours your team currently puts into raising awareness and getting coverage for your company. Many CEOs that try to do it on their own learn the hard way what a time suck it is…. let that be the expert's job.
When it comes to choosing the right PR agency for your business, don’t be fooled by a bargain-basement price. You need to ask the right questions to see if the dollar amount you’re paying will allow the agency to spend enough time submitting targeted pitches to the right media outlets, rather than blasting everyone on a mailing list with press releases. Make sure the agency understands your business goals and is capable of planning accordingly and can do so within your budget before you sign a contract. Remember, you get what you pay for!
This guest post is courtesy of Nicole Rodrigues, CEO and founder of NRPR Group.