What does a PR agency cost?
Writing and sending out media releases, organising media events, preparing reports. These are the most time-consuming aspects of PR. No wonder that companies like to hire PR agencies. In this blog post we reveal what an agency costs – and when outsourcing pays off.
It sounds great: outsource media work and gain more time for other tasks. Produce videos by an agency and profit from the partner network of professionals. Make use of strategic consulting and gain a critical review of processes for development purposes or simply to impress the boss – but at what price?
Agencies are secretive about their cost structure. From retainers, flat rates, daily rates to different hourly rates, there are all kinds of pricing in the agency landscape. That’s why we have summarized the most important facts – so that you know exactly what you can expect for your money.
Even if they may calculate their services differently, all agencies actually have something in common: there is always a cost estimate in the beginning – or there should be. The interested client expresses his wishes and goals and the agency prepares an offer based on the briefing. Sounds simple, right? But that’s usually where the problems begin – on both sides. Because how do you calculate the customer’s request to “do a little social media”? That’s exactly why we have learned to ask the customer very detailed questions to find out what they want and what their expectations are. This way, we get to know that “a little bit of social media” is actually a single two-month campaign and not daily community management.
Now that this has been clarified, the agency has to make an offer. Standardized pricing lists provide little to no orientation here. The offer must reflect pretty much everything the customer expects in terms of performance in order to achieve his goals. And the agency has to be able to explain what needs to be explained. You receive a flat rate? Feel free to ask what it contains. A good agency can give you detailed insight on how the flat rate came together. We don’t like flat rates: we work with calculation sheets and break down each service into individual tasks, thus calculating the total time required for the project. This calculation brings several advantages: if the client wants to cut back on budget, we immediately see where there are opportunities for cuts. Another advantage: if all tasks for the entire project have already been thought-out, the actual planning process is that much faster.
… to collaboration
Keep in mind that an agency is primarily there to relieve you from the tedious tasks – so a collaboration should be an enrichment for the customer. After all, you pay the PR professionals for their expertise and creativity as well as for their network of relationships. An agency is like an external team member who does not need to be trained and knows exactly what you are missing. But as with any kind of collaboration, openness and transparency are not only desired but necessary. Therefore, you should pay attention to three things when choosing your agency: Sympathy, passion and individuality.
If you receive an automated email message with a form after you contact an agency or a standardized offer full of all-inclusive services, you may have the pricing, but you don’t have a partner yet. Did you get a call after your email? Very well! Have the courage to accept a non-binding meeting or call before you request a quotation. Give the agency the chance to introduce themselves, to think about your situation and to ask questions. Trust your gut to know whether you want to work with the agency – because sometimes there is simply no spark. At FBC we want to turn our clients into “raving fans” and we always go the extra mile to do so.
If there is any uncertainty or a misunderstanding – before or during a project – we encourage conversation. If a change in strategy is necessary during a project or if there’s no success, we will adjust the services individually.
Standalone campaigns or mandates?
This seems to be the hardest question for many. But the answer is actually not so difficult: it just varies from case to case, depending on the goal you are pursuing. Do you want to accompany a product launch or start a first trial with a new agency? That’s when a standalone campaign makes sense. Of course, a one-time invoice of 4’000 Swiss Francs seems more tempting than a fixed monthly bill of 3’000 Swiss Francs. But unfortunately, media reportings or website visits can never be guaranteed with a quick fix – and maybe that isn’t your goal either. If you want to steadily increase your presence in the media, it is worth investing in long-term PR work. An agency can break down your goals into necessary services and, based on this, set a monthly retainer. This does not mean that you have to send out a media release every month. The agency is responsible for continuously creating content, topics and stories for the media which you can use for all your channels, too.
Third party costs: The black hole?
Classic PR and communications agencies are developing into 360-degree agencies. Smaller agencies in particular like to work with external partners such as filmmakers, photographers or SEO specialists in order to be able to offer an all-round service. Are you now rolling your eyes and thinking “this will cost even more”? That’s right. But remember that the agency’s partnerships often help to get special conditions. In addition, you gain the know-how of professionals, some of whom also work for major brands. By the way, our agency stands for complete cost transparency and offers and charges third-party services directly to the client. This gives you full control over the costs and you can also choose between different providers. So make sure that you always have insight into the third-party costs, otherwise you might pay expensive commissions or fees to the agency.
Additional costs: What next?
It is unpleasant, but unfortunately it happens from time to time. The expenses exceed the originally agreed amount. Now there is only one solution: wait until the end of the project and charge the extra cost with little to no explanation, right? Wrong! Project managers in a PR agency are not only responsible for the project, but also for the budget. If it becomes apparent that additional costs occur, quick action must be taken. In any case, you should be notified immediately by the agency if something unexpected arises or if more time is required for a task than originally planned. This way you can make a decision.
If the budget needs to be increased, you can also request a recalculation. By the way: if you feel that you have no control over the expenses during a campaign, you can always ask for a budget update. A responsible agency meticulously keeps track of the hours spent on each project and can always tell you exactly where you stand.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is a monthly flat rate for defined agency services. Take a monthly mailing: the retainer covers all tasks from briefing and writing to the actual mailing and follow-ups with selected journalists. In addition, there is ongoing consultation and coordination with the client. A retainer usually also covers a buffer for unplanned measures, such as impromptu meetings or even crisis consulting. The costs can average between 2’000 and 5’000 Swiss Francs – depending on the goals you have set yourself. Important: For retainers, you should request a budget update on a regular basis. Good agencies transfer unused hours to the following month, which also gives you the opportunity to go for something bigger, like an event or video, after quieter periods.
How much does a concept cost?
Between 1’500 and 12’000 Swiss Francs. There is no general answer to this question. Would you like a rebranding or are you simply looking for a social media idea? Would you like to improve your communication activities on owned and paid channels or simply organise a media event? Our concepts and the work behind them are as versatile as your wishes. Therefore, the costs for a concept are best calculated after an initial meeting.
How much does a media mailing cost?
These costs depend on whether we write the media release ourselves, whether we already have a media mailing list or whether the release is accompanying an event at which our presence is required. A mailing with a ready-made text can be done for as little as 500 Swiss Francs. But is the media release exciting enough for the media? A media mailing often does not (yet) lead to the desired publications. A professional agency does not stop at mass mailings, but pitches customised stories to selected journalists. You should discuss the most exciting storylines with your agency and make clear with how many and which media you would like such a personal follow-up.