Need PR On A Budget? Here Are 3 PR Agency Alternatives

For lighter touch PR you can leverage these cheaper sources while still getting publicity

If you’re looking to gain publicity for your organization but don’t have the budget for an expensive agency, consider some of these alternatives. Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

If your small business is looking to leverage public relations (PR) in order to drive brand awareness and help with lead generation, then a full-fledged agency might be your dream but just out of budget.

PR agency retainers vary considerably but if you’re in the US you can expect to pay at least $2,000/month for a boutique agency and $5,000 or more for larger names. Some big name agencies even have fees starting at $20,000/month (and above). (Source: Mustr, among others).

For many solopreneurs and startups, that kind of cost simply can’t be justified, at least during the cost-strapped pre-funding days.

This is particularly true for organizations whose news release cycles consist mostly of product updates and new hires: in other words, material that may not result in much coverage.

While many PR agencies will be wont to tell you this, the truth is that expensive retainers are simply (often) a bad use of marketing budget for many organizations.

But before I list a few alternative strategies, I want to underscore the following. PR agencies do a lot more than just get their clients publicity (I worked at one and have had several as clients).

A full-fledged PR service, for organizations who really stand to benefit from it, can indeed be an invaluable investment. Besides publicity PR agencies can:

  • Manage relations with market research analysts (analyst relations)
  • Ghostwrite content, including thought leadership material. PR agencies can also, of course, pitch that material for publication in outlets.
  • Manage social media accounts.
  • Monitor the media and provide reports about emerging sentiment — positive or otherwise — towards an organization.
  • Guide a company through a crisis (crisis communications).

The thing about PR, however, is that many organizations don’t need all of these services at once. If you just need to get some of those functions covered, then considering keeping one of the following on speed dial.

Hire a PR-focused freelance writer / ghostwriter

A freelance writer / ghostwriter can assist with a lot of the same deliverables that a PR agency can help prepare — and often for a fraction of the cost.

While in a PR firm the writing duties for an account might get delegated to an anonymous assistant account executive, by working directly with a PR freelance writer, clients can develop strong one-to-one bonds with the people doing their ghostwriting.

Ghostwriters — as I’ve pointed out before — are effectively just freelance writers who specialize in ghostwriting for their clients. You can use them to produce many of the same resources that you might expect from your PR firm, including:

  • Thought leadership content
  • Speeches
  • Press releases

I’m a ghostwriter who works a lot with PR agencies and companies and individuals with PR requirements. So if you’re interested, consider dropping me a line.

Hire a solo PR professional

PR agencies typically assemble teams of account executives and assistant account executives to assist with turning out the deliverables required for a client.

For higher level accounts — and those that require the input of an experienced industry expert — a partner might even be drafted in to assist with account management duties (the precise taxonomy will very depending upon the company’s internal organizational structure).

Solo PR practitioners are essentially (typically) one person shops that offer a panoply of PR services without the (sometimes) bloat and price tag of a full-fledged agency.

PR pros might brand themselves as either PR freelancers or PR consultants. They often have years of experience operating in the busy agency environment. And might have access to some of the same tools — like the popular Cision media database — that their agency counterparts do.

In many instances, working with a solo PR practitioner can be a fantastic means for solopreneurs and smaller organizations to conserve budget — or at least spend it more wisely.

Manage your own PR

For many individuals and firms with modest things to talk about — and news to offer to the media market — opting for the DIY approach can actually make a lot more sense.

There are some great tools that individuals can use themselves without having to get either an agency or a PR pro (or anybody else) involved in the mix.

Again, unless you yourself are a PR veteran, it would be foolhardy to expect the same results that you might expect to receive by hiring an agency. PR professionals are immersed in the world of PR from morning until night and often develop great relationships with editorial sources that take years to build. But you can certainly get some initial traction by managing things yourself.

The big name PR agencies of this world certainly fulfill an important function helping manage the communications of many companies.

However many startups and smaller organizations are looking for alternatives and there are a few out there — particularly for those willing to put in a little bit of effort to taking the reins themselves.

Marketing communications consultant interested in tech, Linux, ADHD, beer, async, and remote work (in no particular order).