Budgets are always difficult when it comes to PR, not least because although we believe in the service that we offer and the results that we deliver, there are very rarely any guarantees. It’s not like advertising where you can give a publication, a date and a cost, PR is different.
There are so many nuances with our specialism, not least the changing media agenda, which let’s be honest, just lately, no one could predict! Then there’s measurement, which is an ongoing debate in the wonderful world of PR.
As an industry, we used to rely on advertising value equivalent (AVE) but that’s now considered to be too subjective, so we are left trying to find other measures such as audience reach. This is all well and good, but if you don’t set defined KPIs at the start of a campaign, the numbers are still more vanity than they are sanity.
And so, we come back to budgets, because the return on investment that you are able to achieve from a PR campaign, like most other disciplines, is often directly comparative with the investment that a brand or business is willing to make.
PR has never had a reputation for being the most expensive of the marketing mix, in fact, it’s often the poor relation as far as budgets are concerned but despite this, PR should not be underestimated. Managing your reputation has to be a priority for any business and as it is arguably the biggest asset that a company has, I’d suggest it’s worth taking seriously.
This is why allocating the budget that you have – and not the budget that you can get away with – is essential. If you trust your PR agency, which you should, then you will know that they will provide recommendations that make the most of every penny, so there should be no need to be anything other than honest.
I do appreciate that some agencies have a terrible reputation for mark-up and for allocating unreasonable fees, but again, it goes back to relationships. Make sure from the outset that you completely trust the agency that you are working with to deliver against the objectives and within the allocated budget.
What’s frustrating is when you are working alongside other agencies and you come up with some great ideas that deliver against objectives and within the restrictions of a budget only for others to completely ignore the brief and present something at twice the cost!
How can that be right? It hardly gives us all an even playing field to work from. We’ve done what we were asked – we can all go out and spend money and make recommendations on a budget that we didn’t feel was feasible, but is the point of a brief not to provide the guidelines?
This is a further reason why it makes more sense for brands to give a realistic budget, so that we can all give the very best ideas that we have, not just those that are being cheeky.
We have delivered some amazing campaigns (if I do say so myself) and they don’t have to cost the earth. There is clearly a budget requirement if you want to spend a week at a festival, sampling thousands of products and engaging with hundreds of families, as an example, but sharing the costs from the outset and being transparent means that there is no reason why it can’t happen and deliver against KPIs.
It’s a commitment by both parties, agencies and brands, to put their cards on the table. If we know that we have a given budget to work with, we can come up with some fantastic ideas that not only meet with our objectives but often go way beyond the expectations of the client.
Having the opportunity to come up with some really creative campaigns and plans is what we do, it’s just one of the many reasons we work in the industry and with the brands that trust us to deliver for them time and time again.
So, the upshot is, if you want to get the most from your agency, choose someone you trust, position them as a genuine extension to your team, give them the budget that you have and ask them to come up with a plan that will meet and exceed expectations.
All you then have to do is wait to be blown away, and if you’re not, perhaps it’s time for a change?