“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR,” Bill Gates. PR is one of the best ways to achieve important strategic objectives such as sales growth, customer loyalty, employer branding and brand and business value growth. Like Gates, many believe that effective PR services offer the best return on investment for marketing communications budgets.
This blog demystifies the process of appointing a PR agency and gives those considering appointing an agency an understanding of PR retainer fees in Dublin and how much they should budget.
1. Understanding the cost of PR retainer fees
A PR retainer is a fixed monthly fee you pay to a PR agency to deliver the normal mix of PR services that will help you achieve your ongoing PR objectives. They typically include PR services, and a fixed amount to cover other elements such as administrative expenses, local travel and clipping agency fees.
Your agency should track the time spent on your account to ensure that you are getting full value for your PR retainer. Some months may be busier and some quieter, but your agency should manage those peaks and troughs, so that you get the full value for your investment over a twelve-month period. Sometimes there may be large additional PR projects that may be considered as additional to the retainer, and these can be agreed as needed. Fees are typically charged in advance – typically monthly or quarterly.
2. Factors that affect PR retainer fees
Costs will vary depending on a number of factors such as
- The number of days per month you are engaging the agency – you will usually be able to achieve a lower day rate for larger engagements;
- The scope of the work – some jobs require more specialist skills;
- The seniority of the account personnel you will be dealing with.
Some agencies charge blended rates; some charge different rates per hour depending on the seniority of account personnel. It is important to know what you are getting for your PR retainer fee.
3. Average PR retainer fees in Dublin
Our market knowledge would suggest that the average PR retainer will cost between €3,000 and €10,000 per month, depending on the scale of the engagement and the client needs. This is purely based on general market knowledge and not on hard research data as it is hard published rates.
4. How to determine your PR retainer budget
You should figure out what you want to achieve strategically, and then talk to one or two suitable PR agencies who have deep experience in your sector and give them your brief. Be as specific as you can, and they will provide a detailed proposal which should make it clear what you can expect for your budget. This may include detail such as the mix of expected activities, coverage, regularity of meetings, planning sessions, and other valuable elements such as social media, blogs and digital reports.
5. What to look for in a PR agency to maximise your budget
Passion and very evident interest in what you do come top of the list; after all, your agency is your ambassador. You will benefit from a firm that can evangelise on your behalf. Proven experience in your sector is also critical.
PR campaigns are successful because there has been a great collaboration between the PR consultant and the client, so in addition to the passion, interest and knowledge of what you do, you will also need to see a cultural match. What values does your company have? Does the agency share these?
Scope and scale are also important. You need to ensure that the agency has the right people and experience for the work. If you need public affairs services, not all agencies specialise in this. Similarly if you need financial PR services, this is a relatively niche service that not every PR agency caters to. Also, you need to know that you have an agency that can step up to the scale you may need at busy times.
Independent PR people are an option too, but you need to know what happens when they are unavailable due to holidays, or other circumstances. If a crisis befalls you, or a journalist calls your agency with an opportunity, and your PR consultant is on the beach in Croatia, that’s not ideal. The best model is a multi-level team who can bring a great strategic, creative and execution capability.
Specialist experience in your sector is also critical. Comit established 25 years ago as Ireland’s specialist tech pr agency and has spent all these years honing its value proposition to ensure that nobody does better work for tech companies in the Dublin and Irish markets. Nobody has better relationships with the journalists who will typically write about tech companies, whether national, business, online or broadcast media.
We are also tapped into industry trends and don’t need to be spoon-fed content and ideas. The spark for setting up Comit was that I used to work in a tech company and ended up writing all the content as our generalist agency didn’t understand what we were about.
6. Tips for negotiating PR retainer fees
When it comes to negotiating PR fees, never lose sight of the fact that the most important thing is hiring the agency that is best suited to do the job and that you are paying them a fair price to do the work. You need to be sure that you will get the right level of attention and support and appropriate strategic input as needed.
Some tips to help you get a better rate include: pay in advance – some agencies may offer value added services or fee incentives for payment of retainer fees for six or 12 months in advance; larger engagements can usually achieve a lower rate per day, so you may want to consolidate your PR and digital content creation services with one agency in order to get a lower overall rate. Also longer committed retainers may attract a lower rate, and also a fixed price commitment, which can be very valuable in these days of rampant inflation.
Remember that it is all about maximising the value you get. There is no point in paying for a service that is simply not delivering. Have a very open discussion with your agency and ensure that they understand exactly what you want to achieve and can offer you KPIs that will indicate what you are getting in exchange for your PR retainer fee.
Lastly, get a PR agreement in place which ensures that both parties sign up transparently to a set of key operating principals. Many agreements will have an initial period of 12 months as it is important to invest in PR and give it time to deliver the measurable impact that you are looking for.
7. Getting the most out of your PR retainer budget
Once you have your agency appointed, it is critical to get agreement on the plan and the message. Your agency should be spending time upfront in understanding and helping you to finetune your message. We help clients to prepare a messaging platform that will ensure clear, value driven messaging from the outset.
Then a PR strategy and programme will be prepared and an implementation plan put in place which is designed to execute the strategy. Monthly meetings punctuate the programme and give momentum to the plan and ensures that everybody is on track to ensure the value is achieved.
8. Alternatives to PR retainer fees
Retainers are the most common way to engage an agency, as it ensures that a programme will deliver on an ongoing basis. Stop-start campaigns do not typically deliver sustainable value, as lasting brand value and impact can only be made when PR programmes deliver a relentless drumbeat of on-message communications.
Some agencies will offer project work, however that will rarely deliver strategic value and many of the best agencies will steer away from these as they often don’t move the needle for the client in any significant way.
Another alternative is to in-house your PR function, however, the value of the outside eyes of a PR consultant can often bring added creative impetus and exposure to a wider range of experiences. A PR agency also brings great value when you need to scale up to meet a large project, campaign or provide clear objective – and arm’s length relationships - in a crisis.
Summary - Choosing the right PR agency for your budget
In summary when it comes to budgeting for retainer fees and finding the right agency for your business, you need five critical things:
- The agency should properly understand your brief and need;
- There should be great synergy with the agency team;
- The agency should be able to show you great results achieved for other similar businesses;
- They should be able to provide key performance indicators that will help you understand what you will get in exchange for your investment;
- They should have the right connections to the right media, and you should be confident in their ability to create winning content for you without you ending up doing all the work.
If you would like to get the proposal from a specialist tech pr agency, we would love to hear from you.