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How much does a PR department cost?

The true cost of an in-house PR department vs. hiring an outside PR firm

If you’re considering hiring a public relations employee or creating a PR department to perform PR for your company, be aware that the true cost of hiring and equipping a PR professional greatly exceeds his or her salary.

Additional costs include payroll taxes; benefits; hiring expenses; additional office space, furniture and technology; and informational databases with contact information for influential reporters, editors, producers and bloggers.

Whether you choose to create an effective PR department or attempt to get by on the cheap by hiring only one person, the expenses add up quickly.

Add those expenses together and divide by 12 months and you may find that you would better serve yourself by investing your PR budget in a professional PR firm like Axia Public Relations.

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How much PR staff do you need?

For most companies – and for all mid-sized to large companies – an effective PR campaign will require the efforts of a PR team (count on at least three people).

  1. A senior PR manager, who will develop and implement strategy, coordinate internal communications and pitch company stories to the media
  2. A junior PR professional, who will develop deliverables, write news releases and coordinate personal appearances and speaking engagements
  3. A PR assistant, who will copy edit news releases and other deliverables, handle phone calls, route incoming communications, pull media lists, clip media coverage and handle other administrative duties

Large corporations will require an even larger PR staff to manage multi-location, multi-state or multi-national PR campaigns. (Did the know, according to the University of Southern California-Annenberg, the more PR staff a company has on payroll, the more that company depends on the outside PR firms? Another reason to reconsider an internal PR department.)

For our clients, we are typically working in teams of three or more employees - a strategist, account manager, writer, blogger, social media coordinator, media booker, copyeditor and an assistant. In addition, other members of our PR agency team jump into to help when needed with special projects, previous experience, unique expertise or to make valuable introductions.

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Instructions and important information about the calculator

Base Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of public relations managers is $91,810. The median salary of PR specialists is $57,550. Public relations is one of the fastest-growing job sectors. Out-of-work, talented PR pros are rare and unlikely to accept jobs that pay less than market value. If they do, you should adjust your expectations accordingly.

Recruiting and training
Include general ledger expenses like position advertising, staff or staffing firm time and cost of reviewing resumes, conducting several interviews, reference and background checks, and new-employee orientation and training – multiplied for every new hire, including the ones that don't work out. Don't overlook the cost of inefficiency and low productivity while a position is vacant. Also consider the liability associated with new hires. What if this person is a bad hire? If you fire him/her, you will likely see an increase in unemployment taxes. Then there's worker’s comp, pre-existing condidtions and benefits costs as well as on-going professional development training.

The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley found that “turnover costs for a manager average 150 percent of salary.” Feel free to adjust our numbers to match your own experience with hiring new professionals.
 
Payroll taxes (10-28 percent)
Most employers pay a sum equivalent to more than 15 percent of an employee's salary for payroll taxes that include FICA (Social Security: about 6.2 percent and Medicare: about 1.45 percent), FUTA (Federal Unemployment Taxes: 0.5 percent) and SUI (State Unemployment Taxes: about 0.45–13.5 percent), Workers Comp (about 0.42–5 percent) and local and state payroll taxes (about 0–2 percent). If payroll taxes are more or less in your area, adjust the tax percentage to match your payroll tax expenses.

Benefits (30 percent)
Benefits include PTO (sick days, vacation, personal days), insurance (health, dental, disability, and life) and retirement (401(k), IRS), etc. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, benefits usually cost an employer an additional 30 percent of an employee’s salary. Change our numbers to match your own benefit costs.

Bonuses, Raises and COLAs (5-20 percent)
Beyond base salaries and benefits, you'll have annual salary increases from cost of living adjustments (COLA), annual raises, bonuses, training and more.

Office space, furnishings and supplies
Office space should include rent (225–250 square feet per employee when you add in common space), usually at $15–$50 per square foot, plus desks, chairs, trash cans, and office supplies staplers and paperclip holders.
 
Technology & Software
Technology includes computers, printers, software, desk phones, wireless phones, internet access, and other tech/office equipment.

Media Contact Databases
Databases with contact information for influential reporters, editors, producers and bloggers are essential for a PR campaign. The best databases available can cost in excess of $50,000, and all databases must be updated regularly. Expect to invest $4,000 per year for a minimal database. Plus you'll need to hire one employee to manage the database, pull media lists and reports and/or develop your media database.

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