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Why New PR (Should) Cost Less than Old PR

By July 29, 2016March 30th, 2017Guide to PR, Public Relations

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.

When I was a corporate marketing manager, one of the worst parts of the job was signing-off on the monthly PR invoice. As a tech startup, we wanted to create buzz around our company and our groundbreaking new products. When interviewing PR firms, I couldn’t find one that would work with us for less than $10,000 per month. What does that cover? Extensive meetings to help the firm understand our business, target audience and target journalists, writing press releases, pitching stories to journalists, and sending back lots of reports.

Each month, I would trudge to the CEO’s office with invoice in hand, and he would look at me with scowl and ask, “What are we getting for this?” I’d read the the invoice:

  • Wrote press release
  • Called journalist A, left message
  • Called journalist B, left message
  • Called journalist C, left message
  • Made 100 copies of briefing book for product launch
  • Emailed journalist X
  • Emailed journalist Y
  • Emailed journalist Z
  • Submitted product for Best New Product award at XYZ magazine

That’s what we got for $10,000/month. It was painful. After several months I thought, I can make phone calls and send emails, I can fill out award forms, I can make copies, and I usually end up writing the press release anyway. Why were we paying big bucks for these services?

The short answer was time. Creating news, getting it written in the form of a strong announcement, searching for the right journalists to pitch, and spending the time calling and emailing your pitches are each time consuming endeavors. Each task was performed manually. It wasn’t really a full time job, especially at a lean startup. So we bought PR instead of building an internal PR department.

Also, PR firms were supposed to have relationships with the journalists–access that you were essentially buying. But it doesn’t really work that way anymore.

With platforms like Meltwater, Cision, and Muck Rack (check out our blog PR Database Quick Review: Cision, Meltwater, and Muck Rack), it’s easier than ever for companies to manage their own PR programs or to hire an agency that uses these platforms and can perform outreach much more efficiently. There is cost associated with the platforms, but with most you can search for relevant journalists based on their beat, publication, and recent work. Meltwater’s journalist database includes bloggers and social publishers and ranks journalists by influence. Muck Rack tracks writers’ Twitter accounts and activity–where most journalists publish and promote their work. Cision’s Help A Reporter Out (HARO) tool has free version that allows you to subscribe to a service where journalists ask for sources for stories–the writers pitch you!

These tools make it possible to build and manage PR campaigns much more efficiently than was previously possible. Is there still a place for agencies? Absolutely–especially in the area of strategy.

A good PR agency can help you identify what is truly newsworthy about your business–something many companies struggle to do. On one hand, startups tend to think that the fact that they exist is news; on the other hand many corporate marketers are so close to the company’s operations that they don’t see events that are truly newsworthy.

Another great thing about the platforms mentioned here is that they all help you foster relationship-building with journalists rather than mass outreach. Each has tools to help you find the right outlet for your pitch and tips for how journalists want to be reached.

If you do want to outsource the implementation of PR campaigns, make sure the agency you engage is using one of these media distribution platforms, or something similar. Otherwise, you might be paying for hours of work that could be done more efficiently.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.