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No retainer for PR services?

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Why is a project fee replacing the traditional retainer for PR services?

PR companies traditionally charged a retainer fee. This is an arrangement where clients paid to secure  the services of a PR consultancy as required.  The PR agency would agree to make time  available to assist the client with work as it was needed. This worked well for PR work that related to news or crisis management, which is almost impossible to plan – the agency could be required at any time. In cases like this, a retainer was and still may be the best way to pay for the business relationship.

Project-based PR

Today, companies are looking for a PR service which is more like a promotional communications service. This kind of PR is closely allied with Content Marketing and Digital Marketing.

The client company usually makes a marketing plan based around announcements, product launches and trade shows. They may make a content plan as well. If the marketing department plans these in detail the PR consultant can also plan their work and cost it fairly accurately. In my case, I can usually estimate the cost my clients’ projects so my consultancy works on project fees not retainers.

A freelance PR consultant can work flexibly, but the work is more effective if there is some continuity. A PR person can work most successfully when he or she has a warm relationship with the right editors. They also get to know their clients’ business and market very well. The consultant gets to know the company’s leaders, and all this means that the work will grow easier and the outcomes will be better for the client.

It is not usually efficient to issue a single press release for several reasons. The chief reason is that issuing one press release is a like running one advertisement. People see it and soon forget. If a company wants to build brand awareness, it is better to run a longer campaign that will create greater impact and recall. This ideally needs a series of media releases or other activities in a planned campaign. It will be for more effective, and it can be managed on a project basis.

There is another, more subtle reason why an ongoing relationship with a consultancy works better. When you begin working with journalists, you realise that the relationship with editors is not a one-way street. We send them news material, but they may also contact us with requests when they need information. They may have questions that your executives can answer, or they may be looking for photographs. If you have a regular  arrangement with your PR consultancy, you are likely to benefit from these extra opportunities to provide interviews, case studies and images.