Should you hire a PR firm or do it yourself? Just asking the question indicates you understand the value of public relations.
- PR builds credibility – News coverage is more influential and credible than advertising.
- PR increases visibility – A news story has six times the visibility and three times the credibility of an ad.
- PR pays for itself – Public Relations offers one of the best returns on investment you can make.
Should you do it yourself?
The ROI on PR is normally much higher than for any other form of marketing (Axia Public Relations recently documented a return of 183 times a client’s investment), but the minimum investment required for a professional PR campaign will be at least $3,000 per month. For national campaigns, that figure climbs to $10,000 per month or more, so it may be tempting to try to do it yourself.
It takes time to develop and execute an effective PR campaign. Weigh the value of the time you will spend on PR against what you could accomplish in the same time if you focused your efforts on your own expertise: your business.
- Do you have the time to develop your own relationships with all the reporters, editors, producers, bloggers and columnists you want to cover stories about your company?
- Do you have the tools to find out who those people are and to acquire their contact information?
- Do you have the needed skills to recognize a newsworthy aspect of your company’s business and to craft an effective pitch or write a professional news release?
- Do you know how to get your news release into the hands of the people who have the greatest chance of influencing your target customers?
“There is a point in a business’ life cycle where it can be a better use of an entrepreneur’s time to hire a PR professional or PR firm... at that point, you are no longer a startup. You have matured and have a better handle on where best to use your time.” – Mark Cuban
Should you hire new staff to handle PR?
Now that you’ve realized your time is much too valuable to spend it on something better handled by a PR expert, perhaps you’re also thinking it would be cheaper to do PR in-house, and are considering adding a PR pro to your staff.
Before you do that, carefully consider the true cost of in-house public relations.
First, factor in the cost of recruiting, hiring and training new staff members. Then, add their salaries. Public relations is one of the fastest-growing job sectors. Out-of-work and 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. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of public relations managers is $91,810. The median salary of PR specialists is $57,550.
If you are able to hire someone to do PR for you at a salary less than what you’d pay a professional PR firm, you will still need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes equal to about seven percent of his or her base salary, federal and state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. You’ll likely also need to provide benefits including health insurance, sick leave, holidays and vacations.
Also factor in the tools they’ll need to do their jobs: office space, computers, printers, fax machines, phones and office supplies. They'll need access to databases containing lists of journalists and other influencers and their contact information. They'll also need expense accounts to cover the cost of lunches and other meetings designed to facilitate developing relationships with those influencers.
The Department of Labor estimates the cost of benefits alone will add an additional 50 percent of an employee’s salary to his or her true cost. Add in the technology and other expenses and you can expect employees’ true cost to equal 2.7 times their salaries.
So, in the unlikely event you are able to hire a competent PR staffer at the cost of a bottom-end PR campaign ($3,000 per month), the true cost will be close to $100,000 per year. If you hope to mount a more extensive (and thus more expensive) campaign, you should plan on hiring more than one new staff member to handle your PR. As you can see, the cost of in-house PR will quickly exceed the investment needed to have a top-performing, expert PR firm managing your public relations.
For comparison, check out this free intelligence report detailing what companies the same size as yours are spending on PR.
Hire a PR firm
Public relations firms generate earned media coverage for their clients full-time. They know the ins and outs of pitching stories, writing and distributing news releases, scheduling speaking engagements and developing contact lists and relationships with the media.
Most PR pros have cultivated relationships with media contacts for years and they stay in regular and constant contact with the media, which increases the chance for media placement in higher-profile places than you will likely be able to achieve on your own.
A professional PR firm will ensure your campaign is properly composed, well-pitched, news-worthy (editors hate overt commercialization) and directed to the right reporters, editors and producers. They will also follow up to ensure the media have all the information they need to craft a story about your company and its products or services.
Good PR firms are also experts at search engine optimization, social media management, online reputation management, corporate responsibility programs and ensuring your company is nominated for and earns the awards it deserves. And when (not if) your company faces a crisis, having an established relationship with a professional PR firm can mean the difference between your company’s survival and total catastrophe.
Should you hire a PR firm or do it yourself?
- Do you have the time to do it yourself? If not, hire a PR firm.
- Do you have the writing skills to do it yourself? If not, hire a PR firm.
- Can you afford to hire, equip – and possibly replace – a PR staff? If not, hire a PR firm.
- Are you an expert at:
- A) Public relations?
- B) What you do for your company?
If you answered B, hire a PR firm.
"Companies should focus on their core competencies and outsource everything else." – Bill Gates
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