Engaging with PR for the first time can be confusing, so it’s expected that you might have a lot of questions before you sign on the dotted line. Understanding the intricacies of PR can be complicated if you haven’t had much exposure to it. Boss PR founder Tahlia Crinis gives small business owners the lowdown on what to expect.
Beyond the typical questions about timelines and budgets, it can often be a case of not knowing what you don’t know (so you might not even ask the right questions). Before you move ahead with a PR agency, ensure that you know what to expect first. Besides saving you a lot of confusion, knowing what to expect can also save you time and money.
You’ll need to be patient
Understandably as a new paying client you’ll be eagerly awaiting to see the results in the first couple of weeks. However, there is an important element that affects all PR results – publishing lead times. Lead times refers to the time it takes to actually see results based on the time it takes for publications to physically publish the story.
The reason it is necessary to factor this in is because it helps set the right expectations around when you might see results. Whilst most PR agencies can work really hard to generate publicity quickly, building great results can take time. For example, monthly magazines work with 3 – 4 month lead times, which means you will not see any publicity in most long lead monthly print magazines for at least 3 months. However online and short lead publications work with faster turnaround times so you can see results in the first month and beyond.
Then there’s factoring in the type of story that your PR is putting out there for you and whether there is currently a ‘place’ for it in specific publications. For example, you might be launching a new sunscreen however if some of the publications have just written stories on the top sunscreens and yours doesn’t necessarily have a point of difference, the journalist might have to wait until it fits in with what they’re working on.
So, with all that in mind, it is important to expect that the first 1 – 2 months can feel quiet on the publicity front. It’s likely that your PR agency is working hard on generating publicity for you but sometimes it can feel like not much is happening. Patience is a necessity when it comes to lead times and whilst PR’s can often give an indication of pending publicity, you may still need to wait 3 months and beyond to get a real view of results achieved.
Nothing is ever a guarantee
In a perfect world, PR would work just like advertising in the sense that you pay for an outcome and have complete control over the results. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Whilst most credible PR agencies will have great relationships with the media, we still can’t have complete control over the work that journalists produce. That means, that most of the time you will not get to see a proof of the publicity before it goes to print, and you will not have a final say in what the journalist writes.
PR’s will sometimes receive an indication of what is going to be published, but it’s very rare that we will get a full view. Thus, is the nature of PR and thankfully most of the time we’re pleasantly surprised with the results because they’re better than expected. However, I’ll be the first to admit that in my career there has been times when a journalist has mis-credited a price or made a spelling error in their copy. Journalists are only human too and mistakes can happen on the rare occasion. So just remember that PR’s can only control things so far. We don’t get complete control over what goes to print or when, nor do we ever really get to guarantee a piece of publicity.
Again, we can have a good indication that things will run smoothly, but a natural disaster can quickly bump your feature off a page, or a royal wedding could mean that your expected double-page spread turns into a small brand mention. It is important to know that nothing is ever a guarantee when it comes to PR. That’s why we like to under-promise but over-deliver.
Time is money
In most industries ‘time is money’ and that saying is especially true when it comes to PR. Keep in the back of your mind that any time you take away from your PR agent is time that they could be spending pitching or meeting with journalists to get publicity for your brand. Daily phone calls just to have a chat or constant requests for daily updates will slow down the progress. Most PR agencies will provide you with regular updates, fortnightly WIPS (if necessary) and monthly reports. In addition to this, reputable agencies will provide you with real-time publicity updates and calendar outlines so you have an indication of what they’re working on month-to-month. Beyond that, please know that your representative is working very hard behind the scenes to make your brand a success. Trust that they will achieve great results for your brand and empower them with the time to do it.
We often get asked ‘how much does PR cost?’ However, unfortunately, that is like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’. It really just depends. There are so many important elements to factor in like the scope of work, the KPIs, the perceived hours involved and the expected outcomes. At Boss Media PR (and many other PR agencies) we typically charge either a retainer or project fee depending on the scope of work. Retainer fees typically work on a month to month structure that bills a fee at the end of each cycle and project fees are one off fees charged for a particular assignment. The actual costs involved however varies from client to client and most agencies will need to do some research before coming back with a proposed fee. On top of retainer and project fees charged by PR agencies, you might also need to factor in the following:
Product sample costs
It is important that you factor in the cost of product samples for distribution when budgeting for PR. This cost is worn by the brand on top of the retainer cost or project fee that is paid to the PR agency. Depending on the brand, giving away free samples can be a costly exercise because the PR agency might want to send in excess of 50 full size samples to media. This will normally happen at the beginning of execution, whenever you launch a new product and for specific media requests.
PR agencies will often charge admin fees on top of their retainer or project fees. Admin fees encapsulate anything from postage or courier costs down to printing or bags and ribbon used for send-outs. Again, this is something that should be factored into your budget. Admin fees can vary depending on the project, however most reputable agencies will be transparent about the costs involved and discuss this prior to commencing any projects.
Capturing the full ROI of what PRs do can be tricky, especially because most clients are after tangible results (and rightly so)! Clients will get to see tangible results through things like increased sales, number of media placements, quality of media placements, PR ROI on press clippings or increased visits to their website, but the true value of what we do is often in the intangible results. It can be very had to capture the full success of brand awareness generated or brand credibility that has been built. Or measure your market position or your brand loyalty and advocacy.
Whilst there is still no mathematical formula to fully quantify PR ROI, most agencies will provide a PR ROI value of the press clippings. This is normally calculated on the publications Ad Rate X 3, divided by the size of feature (e.g divided by 2 if it is a half-page feature). The reason for this is because editorial is considered a third-party opinion, so the value is measured three times that of a paid advertising.
It also has to be said that when measuring the success of PR, you’ll need to look at your business as a whole. For example, your PR agent might have generated some great publicity but there doesn’t seem to be a huge increase in sales on your website. Perhaps this means that there are some issues with your UX or UI design of your site and whilst PR is getting people onto your homepage, those UX/UI errors are what’s stopping the conversion.