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No retainer for PR services?

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A PR service with no retainer? Yes, project fees are replacing the traditional retainers for PR services.

PR companies traditionally charged a retainer fee. This was an arrangement where clients paid to secure  the services of the  PR consultancy as required.  The PR agency would allocate time to assist the client with work as the need arose.  This worked well for company news and crisis management which can  almost impossible to plan. The work is unpredictable and no one knows when the agency will be needed.  In cases like this, a retainer was and still may be the best way to pay for a PR consultancy service.

Project-based PR

Today many technology 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. the marketing department sets out these plans so that the PR consultant can plan their work and cost it fairly accurately. In my case, I can usually estimate the cost of my clients’ projects so my consultancy charges 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. It also helps if they are very familiar with their clients’ businesses and markets. The consultant gets to know the company’s leaders, the work becomes more streamlined, and the outcomes will be better for the client.

An effective PR project

It is not usually efficient to issue one isolated press release. The main reason for this 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.  Ideally this needs a series of media releases and other activities in a planned campaign. It will be more effective, and it can be managed as a project.

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.

If you might need a freelance PR consultant, please feel free to contact me at

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