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The value and the costs of effective PR

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

A run down of the outgoings for effective PR. The investment agencies make. The technology behind the scenes, and the time involved

PR is building third party endorsement developing your company’s trust and credibility in the market, amongst your customers and your partners. PR is a valuable part of your overall communications mix, it can help reinforce your marketing and advertising messages - it shouldn’t compete but fully complement and reinforce your other channels and marcomms activity. They should all work in tandem.

PR brings your company to life - makes your activities meaningful to address how your product, service, and mission is improving the market. It’s a way of achieving positive publicity through other people's worlds - much like running an ambassador programme - unlike other promotional methods such as advertising, it can only be earned and not bought. When someone else endorses your brand it is more likely to influence your prospective clients than if you were to simply advertise or use social media.

We found this insightful piece on costs of PR across Europe - this really does give the insights to the investments needed. Why not check out our article - The 5 Myths of PR.

Source of Trust

Good PR is securing positive endorsements and mentions from trusted and relevant sources, this could be a national newspaper or an influential trade title, or social media influencers. It’s a general rule that readers/viewers/listeners, will trust these sources, more than they would a paid ad. Whether the sources are media editorial, customer testimonials or word of mouth - you want your PR to speak to your most valuable audiences.

PR also plays a part in ensuring that your reputation and image is never tarnished. By utilising PR, you can act fast upon any negative customer comments, employee disputes, defective products or unfortunate incidents. Never forget, PR is there not only for the good news but to mitigate the bad.

PR is Cheap Marketing - Wrong!

Why is PR so expensive? It’s a question we’re often asked. There is a perception that PR is as simple as writing a press release, sending it out and the job is done. However, the reality is very far removed from that.

Check our blog post - Why a press release?

To have a truly effective PR system in place it takes time and investment. You need to build credibility and trust with the right content, evidence, endorsements and messages. Media stays forever, articles remain online indefinitely, they can be read over and over, in years to come, so don’t underestimate the power of a well placed article.

There are many tools of the industry that are a basic requirement to success and top this with the time involved in putting everything together and developing meaningful relationships, it’s a package worth investing in with a reputable, experienced agency on your behalf.

Getting Started

At the start of any PR campaign, you first need to have goals - be clear why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to reach a new audience? Build wider brand awareness? Find partners or investors? Find new senior talent? Or become a challenger or lead brand in the market - using PR to grow market share.

Then you need a great narrative - what is it you’re trying to say? How do the media and stakeholders connect with your aims and goals? Here you then need to develop stories to fuel the narrative; whether that is launching new products, you’ve secured significant financial investment or have some undisputable insights and trends to share.

Once you know your stories, you can build from there.

Who Wants to Know About Your Story

The key to any successful PR campaign is knowing your audience. When you understand your audience in detail you can start to build a media database or publications that will help you reach your target audience.

Many businesses fall into the trap of just wanting to feature in print or online for a national newspaper or their own personal favourite publication. It’s important to remove yourself from this way of thinking and put yourself in the shoes of your ultimate final audience. What do they read? How do they read it?, do they even read at all or are you looking more towards broadcast and podcasts/YouTube.

Media Databases and Alerts

Building media databases, however, is an expensive proposition. While, it might be possible to connect to some target media via social media such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Ultimately, for a quality list of the right media, investment in one of the many available online media database platforms is the only option. These however, can cost in excess of £6,000 per year.

On top of this there are further tools available such as media alert services. These are services which alert the user to features and stories journalists are actively working on and seeking content. They can be tailored by sector and often provide an excellent return on investment, however, again they are expensive. Most at least £100 or more per month, with some requiring a 12-month subscription.

Also consider the number of publications and journalists - all requiring content and communications to be tailored to each of them. When contacting journalists you need to know their tile and position at the publication, their subjects of interest, and what features and columns they write. When dealing with over 60 - 600+ journalists - it’s a full time job - and don’t think generic emails to the whole database is going to help your cause.

See our article - How to pitch to journalists.

Advertorial vs Editorial

If you want a quick and easy win, an advertorial could be for you. However, they can cost anything upwards of £95 depending on the type of publication and length of the piece (£95 is a small trade title). The bigger the readership and higher profile the title, the more expensive it will be.

The benefits of an advertorial, is you get to say exactly what YOU, the writer, wants to say. You can include keywords, key messages and have everything very much ‘on brand’. The problem with this however, is that to the reader it’s obvious it’s an advertorial and doesn’t have the same impact as editorial - which is basically a third party recommendation.

Publication Subscriptions

Though many people might think so, the leading trade publications, consumer & business magazines and national dailies, don’t just fall onto our desks free of charge. The cost of keeping abreast of all the goings on in the industry comes with a hefty price tag. However, for PR professionals it’s vital to be on top of what the publications we work with are doing - changes in style, outlook and what stories have been covered recently.

Forward Features

Access to these can be free in some instances, a good agency will create their own forward features list for clients, covering all the relevant titles and timelines. It’s an efficient way for us to generate coverage, while working alongside any advertising or marketing teams to alert them to opportunities to reinforce messages.

Forward features are also a great planning tool in PR, allowing us to focus on popular themes across the year. In the trade this varies greatly, in consumer titles it’s often linked around key ‘selling dates’ such as Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween etc.

For clients that are fast on the pulse, we use this tried and tested tool to get into the key news agenda of the day. It’s all about jumping on what the biggest stories of the day are and offering the media a quick response, insight, statistic or trend. Recently this has included fast responses to the government announcements around lockdown easing in more ‘normal’ years it might relate to an overseas incident, political drama or even something as simple as the weather!

Press Networking and Events

Pre-lockdowns and social distancing this was more about us meeting the media for coffee briefings, attending special media networking events or even hosting a media event ourselves. These days it’s more about phone calls, Zooms, social media and back and forth emails. Either way, networking is a continual part of our job and we’re never off the ball.

Today’s networking is, of course, much cheaper than the older times of coffee and cake, but the latter will return and it’s important it does. Nothing quite beats face to face interactions. Our best contacts are the ones we’ve met in person. We do all this hard work, so you don’t have to. So when your story is ready to tell the world, we have an army of media ready and waiting to hear about it.

Press Wires

If you’re not aware of these, they’re wonderful things. These are businesses such as Bloomberg, Reuters, Press Association. To us we treat them the same as we would any normal media. We network with them, tell them our news and actively work alongside them. If a newswire has picked up your story, the chance of it spreading wider and further is very high.

Newswires are best used where you have a big story to share and you need to reach the widest possible audience fast. Newswires distribute your news to a wide range of media outlets and you can closely track the progress. It’s an especially useful tool if you wish to target titles overseas or outside of your usual specialist area. It doesn’t come cheap though, costing from around £750 for the single distribution of one press release to the domestic market to several thousand for international release.

Lead Time

PR takes time and investment, so when you’re thinking of embarking on this road, be sure to consider that this is really a minimum six month investment. Especially as you have to remember that the longer lead titles often work six months in advance.

So while we may secure you a front page story in Vogue today, you may not see any results for six to 12 months. Ever heard of Christmas in July? This is about how companies launch their Christmas products for the media to try and sample in July so they are able to write about it in the Christmas editions.

Media Monitoring for Coverage

When you’ve invested so much into a PR campaign, it’s important not to scrimp at the final hurdle - media monitoring. A lot of smaller companies tend to rely on free tools such as Google Alerts or TalkWalker but these are not infallible and only monitor online coverage, meaning you could be missing out on vital print coverage.

Press coverage is vital for business to grow and thrive. Many rely on quality coverage they can showcase to potential new partners or future investors.

Quality media monitoring like all other tools of the trade is an expensive tool, and the more successful a company, the more it costs, as many charge a flat fee to search, plus an additional fee per item found. Monthly charges can easily be in excess of £200. This is just for print/online coverage. To monitor broadcast is a different thing entirely and often undertaken by specialist companies. The good news with broadcast monitoring is it can be done on a one off basis and you simply pay for the publication monitored and the length of the ‘showreel’.


Just because you secured media coverage doesn’t mean you can use it freely. Check what licences the publication allows for sharing, republishing or referencing articles. Some media are incredibly protective and charge to allow you to promote articles on your website or in your marketing campaigns.

What More...

Of course, this is all just one small part of PR. Wider campaigns are much more involved and can include any of the following:

  • Product sampling - including press trips

  • Competitions/reader offers

  • Stunts and events

  • Roundtables

  • Reports and insights

  • Crisis management

Your Starting Zone

Take the time to explain your goals to an agency to understand how PR and media relations can contribute. PR will help you smash the digital ceiling while branching out to new markets and being seen by fresh audiences - helping you secure market share.

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