PR Companies: Should I Outsource?
Many people believe that a company’s reputation is its most valuable asset, and anything you can do to improve your company’s standing in a competitive market is worth considering.
But in today’s difficult financial circumstances, what is the most cost effective way to promote your brand and image? Marketing your business will be high on your agenda, but should you spend your money on engaging professional PR services, or is it better to do your own marketing?
It’s worth remembering that the more successful your business, the higher your turnover and profits, so although hiring a professional to handle your PR involves an initial outlay, the return on your investment is likely to be good.
So what are the benefits of choosing to outsource your PR, and how can you go about getting the best value?
The Benefits of Hiring a PR Company
Conveying the best professional image is crucial to your success, so it makes sense to hire an expert to handle you PR, leaving you to concentrate on running your business.
A good PR company can give you an advantage over your rivals, by helping you to identify and remove obstacles to your success, searching out new markets, attracting skilled recruits and helping you to showcase your best achievements.
They can also give support in the event of a difficulty, helping you to manage any negative publicity.
PR companies understand how the market works, particularly if they are specialists in your field. But they also understand how the media operate, are likely to have many contacts, know how to handle journalists, and be aware of the pitfalls of dealing with the media.
Successful PR needs continuous sustained input, and you are less likely to have the skills or time to manage this effectively.
It may seem like you are paying money for something that you could do yourself, but your time is valuable and as an expert can do the job faster and more efficiently, this makes it a cost effective solution.
How to Choose a PR Company
Firstly, consider what you want to achieve through your PR, and what timescale you are working to. Is it about promoting your business generally, or are you considering a specific campaign such as a product launch?
How will you evaluate the success of your PR? You will need to communicate this clearly to any PR company you hire.
If you work in a specialist area, you may prefer a PR company that has expertise in this field. They will understand the conditions in which you are working and know your market well.
They are likely to have existing contacts, which they can utilise to your advantage, and they may also have undertaken similar jobs.
Consider the size of PR company you would like to work with. A large company is likely to be well established, and probably has a good track record of working with similar clients; looking at some reviews of their performance will help you to judge if they are worth hiring.
They will probably also have a large number of staff, which can lead to great team work and synergy, but they may charge higher fees, especially if they are well known.
Smaller companies can often give a more personal service, meaning you can build stronger working relationships together, and their costs may be lower, but they may have less experience at running PR campaigns.
Are the staff experienced and well qualified? You are likely to have more confidence in an established team, but don’t discount the energy and new ideas that younger or less experienced staff can bring to the process.
In particular, check that they have experience of marketing through social media ? many observers believe that the future of PR and marketing lies in the savvy use of social media platforms.
Can the company demonstrate previous success? Can they show you some case studies of similar projects and can they provide references? Knowing that they have a proven track record will inspire your confidence further.
Do they belong to a professional body, such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)? Membership means they have signed up to a set of professional standards.
You may want to consider asking several firms to pitch for your custom in response to a given brief. At the very least, you should have an initial meeting to gauge how you feel, as gut instinct can sometimes prove valuable. You could also ask for a free trial (such as a small press release and follow up) to see how they perform.
Beware of getting tied into a long-term contract; it may be difficult to extract yourself if things go wrong, and a good quality service will keep your custom anyway. The CIPR provides a ‘matchmaking’ service for a fee, which will ensure you have backup in the event of a problem.
PR Company Prices & Rates
PR companies usually have a variety of pricing structures. Small projects and one-off services are normally charged by the hour, but a longer term initiative is likely to be charged at an overall rate, where individual services may be supplied more cheaply.
Prices Per Hour
The price charged per hour will depend on the level of experience of the staff involved, and of course, prices vary between agencies. As a rough guide, prices are likely to be:
- Account Executive (£80 – £100)
- Account Manager (£150 – £200)
- Account Director (£150 – £400)
- Director/Senior Consultant (£350+)
Prices Per Day
The average daily rate will probably range between £800 and £1,000.
Naturally, the cost of an individual project will depend on a number of variables, and this is best discussed with the company involved. However, you should expect a detailed invoice with a breakdown of individual costs.
It is also important to check how charges are calculated. For example, does an hourly rate include time for travelling as well as fuel costs? This could be expensive if the company offices are a long way from your own.
PR Companies in the UK
There are many PR companies operating in the UK, so there will be no difficulty in finding one that meets your individual needs. For example:
The Brunswick Group
The Brunswick Group is the top performing PR company according to PR Week. Based in London, but with a presence in 20 other cities worldwide, the company operates as a private partnership. This enables them to draw on skills and expertise of their many staff across the whole group.
They employ a range of specialist staff, who can address the individual need of a company focusing on a number of variables. For example, they can choose staff with expertise in dealing with certain issues, working within a specific sector, or experience of marketing to a particular audience.
This global corporation is used to working in complex and challenging business environments. They employ leading experts in their field in over 80 areas, e.g. people who have formerly worked in banking, been chief executives, are Nobel Laureate economists, or are intellectual property specialists.
Red Door Communications
This PR company is run on a smaller scale, meaning that they have the advantage of senior staff having direct contact with clients.
They specialise on working within the health sector, and have won awards for their work.
For example, a campaign to raise awareness of a particular health condition, involving public events, media engagement and use of digital channels, resulted in over 6,000 people addressing this issue medically for first time.
Another small company, Buchanan work in the financial sector. They are well established, having been in business for over 25 years.
They have over 100 clients, most of whom have a presence on international stock exchanges, and can offer a variety of services including managing one-off projects or longer term business.
Crisis communications can also be provided, in which they help companies to put in place a contingency plan for crisis management and train company staff to handle hostility, which can help diffuse difficult situations with minimal damage to reputation.
We Are Social
This innovative company describe themselves as a ‘global conversation agency’. They have a modern approach to PR, with a high focus on the use of social media marketing and communication. They are a relative newcomer, only established in 2008, but have won awards for previous campaigns.
They now have some well known clients on their books, including Heinz, Adidas, and eBay. The company is committed to supporting clients to develop their brand via social media.
Many customers now consider social media to be a much more reliable way to gauge the integrity of a company, and prefer to engage with businesses through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms, rather than through corporate websites and more traditional marketing routes.
The ultimate success of your company could be heavily dependent on the way you promote yourself to your customers. Your focus is rightly on ensuring that your brand is the best it can possibly be, and you don’t want the distraction of having to manage the tricky business of PR.