By Melissa A Vitale
If you’ve ever consulted a professional Public Relations firm, you’ve probably been told their minimum retainer. Boutique firms and Freelancers usually have a $3k - $5K minimum monthly retainers while larger agencies start at minimum $15K a month.
PR minimums aren’t meant to make you feel that the service is unattainable. Public relations retainers are based on the time and strategy needed to reach a brand’s goals and to account for the challenges earned coverage in the media industry. Organic earned media can be some of the most beneficial and cost-effective marketing tools: six months of public relations can bring the equivalent for over $200K in free ad-value with a $20K overall investment. Earning media is always contingent on the media industry. Sometimes the difference between passionate interest and feature coverage is one editor saying “yes” to commissioning a story.
Most public relations agencies offer organic earned media hits by way of building strong press relationships and representing a brand to the media in exciting ways that get those editors to say “yes” to feature stories faster. Publicists build and rely on strong relationships to help continually place clients in coverage. Networking with editors & journalists at industry events, and hosting private dinners, drinks and coffees with key press are all essential in media relationship building. One brand may be a perfect fit for a specific journalist, but that writer only likes to be pitched stories in person. Publicists set up a regular lunch, dinner, cocktail, coffee, dates to meet with specific journalists and editors who better entertain stories in person.
Along with strong relationships, publicists spend countless hours building pitches and strategies crafted to captivate journalists’ audiences. Every writer, editor, publication and editor-in-chief has their own editorial schedule and readers and advertisers they must serve in their content. Because consumers do not want to read fluff-pieces on brands exclusively, profiles and feature stand-alone coverage only comes at the interest of the readers and social climate. Sometimes, a journalist loves a brand immediately but won’t have clearance to write about the brand in a full feature for a few months until there are less evergreen* brand stories in the pipeline already. To compensate, Journalists will often feature the expertise of a brand in a relevant trend story or multi-product
Journalists get bombarded with 100s of brands daily so it’s unreasonable for them to remember every brand that they get pitched even months after the fact. To keep the brands fresh in the minds of press, publicists come up with unique and often seasonal stories and pitches that put the brand at the front of their mind. Publicists can pitch brands 3-25 hours a week depending on retainer – and without regular pitching, editors can publish stories perfect for a brand without even remembering that they have the perfect item deep, deep in their inbox.
Publicists need to constantly cultivate new media relationships and stay relevant in their market, so industry events are a must-attend for many publicists. Brands on display at conferences and expos are often the forefront of the industry and ahead of trends and are therefore magnets for press. Publicists know to be at these events to attract relationships with emerging brands and journalists covering those brands.
When you have a publicist, you are paying for not just strategy and pitching, but also media representation. Because the earned media space is so competitive it takes repetitive man hours for a brand to stay relevant and hold the attention of press. Without constant pitching and networking on behalf of a brand, even the best laid strategy will get lost in the noise of the industry.
PR Firms have minimum retainers because they have worked out the science of the minimum amount of hours for in-person meetings, strategy and pitching to be implemented with results. Everyone wants to captivate the attention of media and that requires the consistency and repeat hours of a publicist.
If a brand only has $1000 a month retainer for a firm with $3000 monthly retainers, it could be the difference between 10 and 30 hours of pitching. Ten hours is often not enough to hold the attention of media for more than a few minutes. At that level, the PR strategy is ineffective before it starts. It would be better spent to use that total budget at more cost-effective marketing strategies.
*evergreen is how media refer to non-time sensitive stories that reach general consumer interest.
For those looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR’s services via: melissaavitale.com/services.html
By Melissa A Vitale
Marketing - including social media marketing, public relations and advertising are so varied and interconnected that the title “publicist” doesn’t encompass one specific set of job roles. Some publicists are aces in turning drab social media paces into platforms ripe with revenue turning content while other publicists stay far away from social media management. Other publicists aren’t trained in crisis PR where some publicists live for corporate internal panic.
The type of public relations this post is going to break down is media relations and strategy that lead to organic, earned media placements, or getting placed in top tier outlets like Forbes, Glamour and Tech Crunch without having to pay advertising costs.
Earned media typically comes in three different forms: round-ups, thought-leadership commentary, and full feature profiles. Round-ups are popular ways to feature companies or products in a grouped article that pairs a common theme. Popular round-ups are Gift Guides, Lists of essentials for travel or holidays and seasonal must-haves. For a sex toy brand, a round-up like “Top ten accessories for the perfect date night” in Allure would be ideal to be included in. Thought leadership and commentary from brand executives are another vehicle for earned media. Journalists who cover specific industry topics are always looking for expert insight to prove a claim their making in an article. For a tech startup, having their CEO quoted in International Business Times’ “Top tech trends of 2020” could put their brand’s message in the forefront of industry conversation. Finally, in the crème-de-la-crème of earned media placements is full feature profiles. This is an entire article dedicate to a single company or co-founder, or executive.
So how do publicists go about getting these types of placements for our clients?
Leveraging our relationship combined with innovative strategy.
A publicist’s job is to know what publications, editors and journalists are working on specific stories that may be a fit for their client’s products or perspective. We do this by maintaining strong relationships with journalists everyday through events, pitches, emails, calls, desksides, market appointments, and the ever-favorite: press entertaining,
A large portion of a publicist’s job is to take lunch, dinners, and go out and stay connected with journalists so they always have a read on what journalists are doing. For clients, this means that when you hire a publicist, you have someone sitting down with writers at New York Post and MarketWatch and editors of Rolling Stone and SELF on behalf of your brand.
To keep conversations relevant (and our clients in editors inboxes) publicists are consistently coming up with fresh pitches with catchy product roundup categories, insightful industry commentary and unique inside perspective to whet a journalist's interest. These regular pitches are just a small portion of the media relations process.
Before hiring a publicist, a brand’s best hope of having media features is being discovered by journalists buying the product for themselves, researching for a story or perusing on social media. With a publicist, brands are being represented in the conversations that move industries.
Many of the industry trend stories that my clients have been in came as a result of discussing the ins-and-outs of the industry over drinks and a joint, and that conversation sticking with the reporter when a certain topic is assigned.
All earned media is contingent on a number of factors including an editorial calendar which is governed by an Editor-in-Chief, or an Online Editorial Director, advertising schedule and reader demographics and habits. When it comes down to why certain brands cannot be covered by all outlets is all a matter of man-hours and time that can be spent: for every story there are photo assistants, editorial assistants, researchers, fact-checkers, editors and writers who need to put together a single piece. Some months, there is simply no more time planned and no budget for additional writers that even if an editor loves what a brand is doing, their hands are tied, and they must revisit the topic another time. You could have the best or most expensive publicist but if there isn’t opening for a story, the only thing you could do is potentially risk the relationship with an editor with aggressiveness.
Media relations for earned media are a combination of outbound pitches and inbound requests. Pitches from publicists suggesting story ideas that may be compelling to readers offer journalists access to companies and insight that they might not normally have to tell a certain story. While journalists always have a steady stream of assigned stories that require experts. When they need experts, rather than going to one individual source, they go to their trusted publicists who will always connect them to expert, trusted, reliable insight.
This is why publicist focus on relationships. Reminding the editor months down the line when they’re looking for brand stories to fill their editorial calendar can be the difference between a full feature and just lukewarm interest. A strong relationship can also lead to dozens in inbound requests that turn to client features from without having to send a single pitch. The longer you work with a publicist, the more placements you get because the brand slowly aligns with more editorial calendars and openings.
A publicist is like a duck, on the surface, you may see them doing just one thing: getting drinks, or out at an event, but under the surface, like a duck’s rapidly moving webbed-feet, there are thousands of conversations, hundreds of story ideas, and dozens of documents ready for press on specific experts, brands, products etc all underneath the surface.
MAVPR has built a reputation as a trusted source for editors and press that commentary from our clients is relevant to the reader, on-message for the client, thought-provoking in the industry and always delivered to the journalist on time, respectful of their deadline and other sources, making us a popular choice for expert commentary requests from outlets like Forbes, Bustle, Refinery29, Benzinga and more.
To learn more about becoming a MAVPR client and our services, please visit: melissaavitale.com/services.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.