Getting press coverage is big business for industries trying to get the word out about their product or services. The goal of Public Relations (PR) is to inform the public, prospective customers and stakeholders, in an attempt to influence their views about the company. Content creation and distribution is the key to that objective and PR employees spend a great deal of time working with online newspapers and other traditional and digital outlets to publish an article featuring their client in an attractive light.
The price of PR can vary wildly, but monthly retainers generally range in London between £2k-£10k to feature in publications and benefit from consultancy. However, many companies question the value of PR and wonder if the results justify the cost. What is the return on investment and are businesses getting value for money at those prices?
The Value of PR and How it is Priced
The price of PR can vary wildly, but monthly retainers generally range between £2k-£10k to feature in publications and benefit from consultancy. Smaller boutique PR agencies charge the lowest amounts, usually ranging between £2,000 and £5,000, but big names in the PR world have retainers starting at £20,000 per month.
There are many variables involved in PR pricing, such as the type of campaign you are organising and the publications you use. For example, for a national consumer campaign, £3,000 a month is probably the absolute lowest price you could get, but for a targeted niche trade campaign, it’s possible to pay less and still get desirable results.
There is no doubt that PR is extremely important to businesses, particularly those who have limited experience with marketing themselves. Startups and investors shouldn’t necessarily be paying for articles, or any press coverage for that matter. What they should be paying for is a more rounded approach to improving their communications strategy, which can be provided by a digital or PR agency. These agencies can leverage multiple online marketing disciplines to generate publicity – and eventually sales – for your business.
Traditional PR firms typically charge retainer fees with no contractual obligation to garner media coverage, which are priced according to time spent and seniority of the person on the account.
What exactly are you getting when you pay a retainer?
Retainers are basically a fixed monthly or quarterly fee charged for a contractual commitment of a minimum term (usually 6 months). Most of the time, retainers are paid in advance.They ensure clients will receive a certain level of PR services during the contractual time and have a dedicated team work on your account throughout the month. That team will get to know your business well and form relationships and deals to promote your brand through events, publications, radio, tv and online.
Retainers are a good way of working out hourly rates and most of the time they are paid in advance. For example, if your monthly retainer with a PR firm is £5,000 and you work on a £200 per hour basis, this entitles you to 25 hours dedicated to your account. Sometimes, the working hours for a client will be higher than estimated (eg. around a product launch), but it balances off with quieter times. Both agencies and clients prefer the stability of retainers as it means longer term goals can be worked on with minimal disruption and clients can develop trust in the agency when they see what is being achieved. A retainer is an advantageous way to tap into a PR agency’s contacts, knowledge, networking and relationships.
Generally, the lower the fee, the less efficiently the PR programme can be managed. Every account requires a certain amount of administration and meeting times; this type of work doesn’t result in coverage but it’s vital to the successful outcome of any campaign. The larger the fee, the more time that can be dedicated to your account at every level. If you’re concerned that you don’t know what your PR consultants are doing with your time and money, ask to look at their timesheet. All reputable agencies should keep transparent, accurate records in a detailed way.
Advertising vs. Editorial: The Costs
There is one similarity between advertising and editorial: the publication needs to be carefully selected based on readership figures, target audience and perceived quality within the industry. However, one fact is always true: the cost of magazine advertising is far more expensive than editorial. They both offer opportunities for media coverage, but the main difference between the two is money. You will need to obtain rate cards and collate them with readership statistics to understand the advertising costs and gauge the best return, but the financial price of advertorials will be higher than editorial in every scenario.
The costs of advertising depends on the frequency, readership numbers, distribution area and funding of the publication. According to the Telegraph’s latest rate card, a half page advert is £43,500 and a quarter page is £22,000. For local newspapers, which have an average readership of 50,000 the price of an ad is between £800 and £3,000.
If you compare an advert in the FT (which costs up to £8,000) to a piece of editorial (which is free), it makes sense to go down the PR route. Most importantly, the PR route gives quality in-depth journalism, that an advert cannot provide. The readers are more likely to see editorial and read it. Whereas, an advert or a piece of advertorial will normally (but not always) be placed in the advertising section, which readers tend to avoid.
Editorial cannot be paid for and topics greatly depend on the outlet pitched. Companies pitch multiple outlets and send out mainstream press releases, but do not control the final content. Advertorials are paid and you are guaranteed inclusion in the news outlet, but the article is seen to lose credibility as it is biased and contains obvious company messaging. However, many brands only care that their message is out there. The reliance on advertising is shortsighted; editorial has a much higher conversation rate than advertising since it offers engaging and informative content with no obvious sales pitch.
Pure editorial can achieve the same thing as an advertorial with better relationship-building for future campaigns as an added benefit. It is the result of your hard work and the contacts you have made, both of which help to get your brand a space on the page. If you can get the same amount of coverage for free, why wouldn’t you? Not to mention that PR monthly retainers usually cost less than a single advertorial placement.
The Power of Press Trips
A press trip is a method for an organisation, place or event to get positive publicity. It’s entirely a business arrangement where the entity invests time and money to allow journalists to visit. Afterwards, the participants are expected to sell their stories and/or images about the destination.
Press trips allow journalists to experience the product and write lifestyle pieces for their readers that people would expect to read in a quality publication. A lot of publications will not write on a destination unless they have experienced the destination and have reviewed it (much like a critic would do with the theatre or with food). Press trips have the power to generate serious amounts of coverage for a client’s service, product or event.
A press trip costs roughly £5000. But £10,000 plus the product and accommodation as extra should get you 10 pieces of editorial so you are paying £1000/piece. Again: this is much better than advertising rates. We plan and manage individual and group press trips so that your brand reaches a wide audience through our extensive network of contacts in the luxury travel industry.
How do you know you are getting a return on investment?
Benchmarking enables PR companies to monitor how a campaign has performed compared to a similar one in the past. You can look at previous campaigns or assess your yearly/monthly progress. However, if you are at the beginning of a campaign, there are various other ways you can analyse your ROI, including:
- Visibility – there are plenty of mediums to promote your client, eg. news sites, trade publications, speaking engagements and appearances on podcasts, radio or TV.
- Social media interaction – trace coverage from journalists, influencers, bloggers and keep track of social shares, favourites, and comments.
- Citation volume – how many time has your PR company got you mentioned in the media and on social sites? How do your citations compare to the competitions?
- Enquiries – digital marketing makes it easier to ascertain which PR link or referral resulted in a lead or sale.
- Awards – PR agencies can put their clients forward for industry awards. Accolades improve reputation and help establish a company as a leader in their specific industry.
- Formation of valuable relationships – good PR firm will build lasting connections with journalists and prominent figures in the media.
- Response from target audience – a PR firm knows which publications your ideal customer reads and how to gain market share with your target audience. New technological tools mean it’s becoming easier to focus on and analyse smaller subsegments within your target market.
It is up to you to consult with your PR or marketing agency to see if the return is worth the investment for your business compared to the price. Shop around to get an idea of the standard going rates. Check the options and packages they provide and determine which one is best for your company’s objectives at this stage in its growth.
If you would like more information about Relevance’s PR services, please get in touch with us. We can work on a strategy that will promote your brand, gain a wider audience and get tangible results.