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Don’t Forget Public Relations

As we move into a new financial year many business owners are looking at how to best spend their marketing budget over the next 12 months. According to Amanda Kuhn owner of Missy Mischief PR one mistake that is commonly made by most businesses is neglecting to include Public Relations or PR within that list.

PR is one of those grey areas that a lot of small business owners feel they either don’t need – or simply have no idea where to start. In reality, it can be the most cost-effective way of reaching your customers!

A customer will perceive an editorial very differently from an advertisement. When they read an endorsement within an article featured in their favourite magazine, or written by their most followed blogger, this will carry more weight than a traditional advertisement. While advertising is still valuable, it can sometimes be missed or ignored by a consumer. But they will always read the editorial, the review, or flick the ‘Top Picks’ as chosen by their most loved publications. This is what PR does.

Traditionally PR is coverage, but with the introduction of social media and the continual rise of influential bloggers PR has now become more than just column inches. Most PR agencies will incorporate social media in their media, consumer or blogger engagement strategies. By doing this we are guaranteeing a full reach to a maximum audience and through the written word.

How much to budget
How much will this cost? A good rule of thumb is to carve out at least 30% of your overall marketing budget to PR. Once you know what this budget is, you can decide how best to engage an agency. There are two key ways to hire an agency: campaign or retainer.

A campaign is a short-term engagement (usually around three to six months) and is best utilised for new product launches, opening of new stores, special events etc. For a basic campaign engagement the fee only could cost around $5000 to $10,000 (dependent on the size and structure of your campaign). This cost will be the fee only and won’t include any out-of-pocket expenses (agencies will add these on top of the fee – items like purchasing banners, hiring equipment or couriering).

A retainer is the most common form of engagement with an agency. The retainer engagement would be around six to 12 months and attract a monthly fee that could start at $2000-plus. A retainer is for businesses looking for longer, more sustained and consistent media and online presence – a monthly press release, product placement, reviews and editorials.

Choosing an agency
There are literally thousands of agents and agencies that you can select. They range from independent one-person operations to small boutique agencies to the large national and global operations. A small business should always look to hire a boutique or independent agent, as their fee structures will be straightforward and you will receive personal service.

When researching an agency, take a look at their website and social media pages. See how many followers they have and how active they are in supporting their clients across these pages. Also look to see what clients they have. Don’t just look at the success stories they have uploaded on their website (remember they are PR agents; they know how to sell themselves!) and it isn’t about how many awards they have won.

When you have found one you like, ask them for references and speak to their clients directly. This will give you the best idea of if they are the ones for you!

Negotiating rates
Negotiate your rates with the chosen agency. Agencies that offer flat fees are better for budgeting; a flat fee structure means you know exactly what your invoice will be each month with no surprises. Keep in mind at this point that more and more PR agencies also manage their client’s social media. It is good to ask if they do this and what their fees are on that. Incorporating PR and social media will save you money!

Setting expectations
Now that you have your agency, be clear with them on expectations. A great way to kick this off is to let them know where you would like to appear, be seen or have your product reviewed. They will work with you on developing the best possible strategy and approach to help make this happen.

Just remember one thing – PR isn’t advertising. We can’t just book a spot in a newspaper and see it run within a week! We need to work with the media on educating them on you and your brand, but you should start to see some results within the first four to six weeks of your engagement.

The Business Enterprise Centre is a community based not-for-profit organisation established to foster the growth of business within the Central West of NSW. We are managing agents for the NSW government Small Biz Connect Program, Australian Government ASBAS and NEIS program. To find out how we can assist your business contact the BEC on 63620448 or email