Search online to find out how much PR agencies charge for their services, and you could well struggle to find a definitive answer.
Is this because PR agencies are secretive when it comes to their fees? Maybe.
But it’s also because there are usually a number of variables that affect how much a public relations agency charges its clients.
What do PR agencies charge? Hourly rates and day rates of PR agencies
Some PR agencies will have an hourly rate, with one report suggesting the average hourly rate for UK public relations consultancies is £86. If you count 7.5 hours in a day (some PR professionals might count a day as 7 hours, others 8) then that’s an average of £645.
But don’t expect a flat hourly or day rate from all PR agencies. Some will have different rates for different members of the team, depending on their experience and seniority. It’s not uncommon for senior members of the team to charge £1000 a day plus for their time.
The fees PR agencies charge could also depend on the type of activity carried out. For example, crisis communications is often charged at a higher rate because it usually requires more senior and experienced members of the team, as well as suddenly having to change and reschedule other work due to the urgent nature of it.
You might also find a lot of PR agencies don’t charge an hourly rate and only give the option of ‘buying’ time in full days.
PR agencies might also charge more for ad hoc projects compared to ongoing retainer clients. In some circumstances it’s also possible for charities and not-for-profit organisations to get a discounted rate, depending on the PR agency’s policy.
Do PR agencies charge minimum fees for PR retainers?
A lot of public relations agencies will have a minimum monthly retainer for clients, and won’t take on any work below that fee. Minimum fees can vary hugely – anything from £1000 a month to £10,000+. Factors impacting the retainer could include location – for example, public relations firms in central London are likely to be a lot more expensive than a virtual agency based in Manchester – size of the businesses, specialisms and more.
When you’re doing your initial research to shortlist PR agencies, it’s worthwhile asking what each public relations’ business minimum retainer or project fee is so you know straight away whether or not it’s in line with your budget.
Charging for time vs results and value for public relations services
Traditionally, PR agencies charged clients based on time. But increasingly, people working in the public relations industry are moving away from ‘selling time’. Other considerations – such as specialist sector expertise, knowledge, contacts and the added value they can offer – should be considered. KPIs and results should also be set for any campaign – whether for a project or retainer.
What else will my external PR team charge me for?
Different PR agencies will have different terms when it comes to charging for additional items. Some may simply absorb expenses into their day rates, others may have a set percentage they charge on top of their fees, while others charge everything back (with or without a mark up).
Some of the things PR agencies may add to your invoice include:
- Third party costs – such as outsourcing design, web development, influencer marketing partnerships
- Expenses – travel, accommodation, refreshments
- Admin – office costs, software, magazine subscriptions, cutting services
Make sure you understand what additional costs may be incurred by your PR agency and how they will charge these back to you. Always request that any extra costs on top of your retainer or project fee are agreed before your PR agency goes ahead and buys them.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re late paying your invoices, your PR agency can charge you interest and a late payment fee.
How to find the most cost effective PR agency
More and more PR agencies are built on a ‘virtual agency’ model. Rather than renting or owning a large, city-centre office with all its associated costs, virtual agencies tend to work with a network of remote and experienced PR professionals and consultants. This means the PR agency doesn’t need to pass on the costs of expensive office space to you. It also means you get a more experienced, skilled and knowledgeable team to carry out your day-to-day work. Combined, these two key advantages mean you get better results, quicker and at a more competitive rate than a traditional agency.
Read more about the Unhooked Communications team and structure to find out more.
Can I pay a public relations agency to do an ad hoc press release?
If you’re looking for a PR agency to do a one-off small piece of work like a press release, you might get a mixed response. Some will be happy to do it, but others might not. External public relations businesses will typically want to spend time researching and speaking to you to understand your business, market and customers so they can create a bespoke PR strategy. They will also want to make sure they’re getting your tone of voice, brand personality and values right in any communications work they do for you. Not to mention all the creativity and ideas that go into developing an effective PR campaign.
Because of this, it can be difficult to do ad hoc pieces of small work. It takes days, if not weeks, to create a bespoke PR strategy and plan. On top of this, your PR team will constantly monitor, measure and evaluate to show the impact of the PR activity.
What to ask a PR agency about their fees
Before you start looking for a PR agency, make sure you have a clear idea of your PR budget, objectives and expectations. Communicate this with the PR agencies you’re contacting so they can let you know straight away whether or not it’s something they can help with.
To help the conversation around PR budgets and PR agency fees, you can also ask:
- How do they charge? Hourly fees or day rates? Do they have different fees for different members of the team or a flat rate? Is regular, ongoing, retainer work charged at a lower rate than ad hoc project work?
- What are their payment terms? 30 days payment terms are no longer the norm. Some PR agencies have 7 day payment terms. Others will charge 50% upfront before projects start. You might also come across some PR agencies who require upfront payment before starting work.
- Do they have a minimum monthly retainer or project fee? Typically what does this get you in terms of PR activity?
- How do they report on time, activity and results? And how does this link with their fees, retainer and project charges?
- What expenses and third party costs will they charge back? For a particular project or campaign, what do the total additional costs come to?
If you don’t quite have the budget to employ a PR agency at the moment, but you understand the value that PR can offer your business, you could take an online PR training course for small businesses or startups to learn how to do some of the activity. yourself. Make sure you find a training programme that explains how to develop your own PR strategy and measure the success of your activity, as well as carry out some of the PR tactics yourself. Find out more about what PR Unlocked training offers here.
Looking for a cost effective PR agency?
Because Unhooked Communications operates as a virtual agency, we can get your better results, quicker and at a more affordable rate than some traditional agencies. Contact us to find out more.