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
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.