How a Public Relations Firm or Publicist Cost or Charge

The major cost is the fee for service. PR firms typically charge in one of three ways: hourly, monthly retainer or project basis. Let’s look briefly at each: 

Hourly: This is self-explanatory. The PR firm tells you their hourly rate, usually based on the level of person working on your account, and then they bill for the hours worked during any given month. Because paying hourly can get out of hand, or leave the client unaware of how many hours the firm is racking up, they may either put a cap on the number of hours they will bill during a month and continue working without charging the additional hours, or tell you when they reached their hourly allotment and then it is your decision whether to approve additional hours of billable work or not.

What is the typical hourly rate for a PR consultant? Well, it can range from $50 an hour for someone working alone out of their garage, to $500 an hour or more for a very high level PR consultancy. Usually the latter is the exception. It is safe to assume that the average hourly rate for a quality PR firm is probably around $150 to $250 per hour.

Monthly retainer: This is the most common billing method because most PR campaigns are ongoing without stops and starts. After the PR firm has a clear understanding of your goals, objectives and expectations, they will consider how much time they need to devote to you as a client and then come up with a monthly fee. Almost always, they will put a cap on the number of hours the monthly fee will cover. If more hours are needed, some PR firms will ask for permission to work more hours, while others will just keep working to keep the client happy. Question: what if the PR firm works fewer hours in a given month? Does the client get a credit for the next month’s work? Hard to say. It is unusual for a PR firm to give a client credit for hours not worked simply because the next month they may work more hours than allotted. So it all works out in the end.

What are common monthly retainer amounts? Again, it varies based on the workload and the PR firm you are working with. Monthly fees can range from $1,500 – $3,500 per month for individual PR consultants working with a local business, to $50,000 a month for a large, national PR firm working for a large corporation.

Project basis: This is a common billing method when you have a self-contained project that you need help with. A common example would be a special event. There is a point when work needs to start, and a point when the work ends, after the special event is over. In this case, the PR firm will arrive at a price to produce what we call a “scope of work” meaning the firm outlines precisely what it will do for you within the timeframe and put a price tag on it. This is a very clean and clear way of working with a PR firm in that you know going in what your costs will be for the PR firm to handle the special event or project for you.

Project costs can range anywhere from $2,000 for the project to $10,000, and beyond, again depending on what the project requirements are.

When discussing PR firm costs, we can’t ignore expenses, as they can be significant. When talking to a PR firm, the potential client needs to get a clear understanding of expense billings, as they vary. Expenses range from local and long distance telephone, messenger services, travel and other standard operational expenses the PR firm incurs on your behalf, to vendor expenses such as photographers, graphic designers, web programmers, printers and the like. The larger PR firms have some of these services in-house such as graphic designers, but they usually bill separately for them.

Additional information on fees:

Here is a breakdown of sample pricing per hour for Freelancers, In-house teams and Agencies:

Freelancer: $25 to $125/hr
In-House Team: This is a salaried position that ranges from $30,000 to $80,000+
Agency: $60 to $250/hr
In the long run, an in-house team may be more expensive because of the overhead costs with hiring a salaried person, but it all depends on your company needs.
Billing Options:
There are a variety of different ways that outsourced public relations agencies or freelancers bill their clients:
1. A base fee with an hourly or project rate plus any out-of-pocket expenses
2. Hourly/per project billing plus out of pocket expenses
3. Fees for a particular amount of time worked plus extra hours at an hourly rate and out-of-pocket expenses
4. Flat fee for all time plus out-of-pocket expenses
5. Pay for performance is a newer model used by agencies where they only get paid once results have been achieved. (This is not a common billing model.)
*Out-of-pocket expenses can be charged either at cost or with agency markup.
**Note: This is information only and do not reflect World Wide Vital Marketing & Public Relations Inc. fees.

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