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The Role of Public Relations Agencies

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Public relations agencies are the specialists to turn to when you want to get maximum coverage in the media. Now, calling up local newspapers and sending out press releases are simple things that anyone can do, so it might seem that you don't need to be a specialist to practice PR. So, why hire a public relations agency? One critical reason is that these firms are PR experts.

Public relations agencies employ people who are experts at storyboarding, writing, planning, timing, and flawlessly executing PR and promotional campaigns. While novices tend to be confused and chaotic in their efforts at PR management, good public relations agencies can plan and seamlessly execute a campaign that will lend significant support to a company’s marketing strategy.

Most PR agencies charge their customers a monthly retainer fee for their services, typically in the range of $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the scope of the work. Mid-sized and larger PR agencies usually require a monthly retainer of at least $10,000 to $25,000. You can also go, however, with extremely small firms — i.e., one- or two-person firms, often working from home — which will typically charge only $4,000 per month. Of course, if you can find someone willing to work for less than that, it bears keeping in mind that you get what you pay for.

But does your organization need the highly professional and rather expensive services of a PR agency, or can you do things more economically and effectively yourself? Here's a list of dos (and one don’t) to help you decide:
  • Do use a specialist firm if effective public relations is crucial to your success.

  • Do consider a PR agency if you spend at least $4,000 per month on public relations. That's probably the least it will take to interest even the smallest agency in handling your account.

  • Do hire an agency for outside objectivity and a more creative, detailed approach to PR.

  • Do hire an agency if you need help introducing new products, planning promotions, and targeting niche markets.

  • Don't hire an agency if you are trying to cut costs and if you are certain that only you can figure out the best way to promote your business.
Notwithstanding the fact that routine PR activities focus on tactics, the tendency within most PR agencies is to overstress the strategic aspects of public relations, and to subordinate the tactical. However, strategy and tactics are inextricably entwined, as both are indispensable for achieving meaningful business and PR objectives.


The great Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu once said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” And herein lies the paradox, because if every PR professional is a strategist, how does one get anything accomplished? And if every PR professional is a tactician, how does one achieve organizational goals and PR objectives? A proper balance is thus essential, and research-based public relations can provide the necessary guidance and the underlying structure.


Mark Weiner. Unleashing the Power of PR. John Wiley & Sons Publishing, 2006.
On the net:Public Relations Agencies & Service Firms

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