By Melissa A Vitale
One of the hardest parts about running a public relations brand is the uncertainty and the ambiguity of the media industry, and trying to explain to clients that just because they want PR, doesn't mean that press want to write about them right at that second.
Public relations is the least immediate form of marketing: you can hire a social media manager tomorrow and have increased following and engagement by the end of the month; you can hire a Google-ad-words specialist and see higher website traffic in a day. In public relations, you can often go the first two months with no live coverage.
When you hire a bigger PR firm, they compensate by having junior staff focus on blog, regional and niche placements that fill end-of-month-reports but often have no tangible ROI in the long-run of the campaign, while senior staff go after the top tier, longer leads that clients actually want. The result: using a big PR firm, you will not only get large placements, but you get many placements frequently.
With a freelancer its a bit different and that typically has to do with timing and budgets. Clients hire freelancers because they are not yet at the stage to hire either a global firm or a full-time employee. Therefore, it should be expected that every retainer has a limitations of hours that can be applied to an account.
For my Public relations operation, I offer all the services of a larger PR firm, but at a freelance rate, and therefore, the expectations should be relevant to the retainer. While I still offer media training, content and press release writing, and speaking engagements and other services you find at a larger PR firm, I do so with the understanding that rather than having a team of five actively pitching a client, there is only one senior publicist pitching the client. Often times this is what emerging brands want when they seek my services.
Before we get into what a PR retainer covers, we should first examine the often-rocky media landscape in regard to media relations.
Every single editor, journalist, editorial director, digital site manager, and outlet itself have their own editorial schedule. Just because a client wants to be featured in outlets, doesn't mean that the writers who want to feature you will have time or will get commissioned for those stories, especially if there is nothing time-sensitive anchoring a journalist's interest. This is why PR plans typically cannot be less than three months, because there needs to be time for the press to align their interest in a client with their editorial schedule.
Due to the tiered nature of media explained above, press efforts can sometimes be a game of Russian roulette, where sometimes round after round of pitches yields very little, and then BAM, three features right after another. Its for this reason you work with a skilled publicist who can navigate the murky waters of media relations and still make sure your name has an established presence.
Because a press campaign can often times take two months before a press hit comes in, a lot of clients ask me what their PR retainer is actually paying for?
To give you an idea, every $1000 per month spent at MAVPR equals up to 10 hours of outbound pitching. Outbound pitching includes pitch curation, strategizing the best journalists to pitch, any exclusive rounds the pitch includes, finding contact info and reaching out to journalists. This is a majority of the work involved in a PR campaign, but it is by far all of it.
Pitching is just part of the process though: once a journalist is interested, a single story can require up to 40 man-hours on my end depending the scale of the story. Interview prep, sending along photo and video assets, media training, on-site interviews and filming can add up quickly. The best stories can sometimes take the most time. With MAVPR those hours are unlimited in any retainer. I work until the job gets done, its why I never accepted hourly work and always worked with a retainer. This is also why outbound pitching isn't a concrete number. If a brand has 5 stories coming in one month, in media, certain angles get paused when a journalist is interested. If you offered to give someone a cake (a story) and in the time they took to pick up the cake (get confirmation from editors, interview subject and write the story), you offered it to someone else but offered to give the original customer the chewed up regurgitated bits (no longer new, fresh or uncovered, now old news) they would be pissed and angles in the media industry can be the same.
A monthly retainer also covers any needs for content writing or press release writing as required in the campaign. Any client-requested writing that is not for press efforts as designated by MAVPR are billed outside of the monthly PR retainer.
PR campaigns can take as many turns as the media industry does, and it's not always quantified in secured press hits until the strategy really starts to unfold.
MAVPR has a number of budget friendly packages for those looking to dip their toe into public relations.
Curious about whether you or your brand are ready for public relations? Schedule a consultation!
To learn more about what we specialize in, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/about.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.