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Dec 12, 2023 Paul Richardson

Public Relations - retainer or ad hoc?

When considering using a public relations agency, one of the first decisions you must make is choosing between a retained service and an ad hoc service. While both options have merits, having a PR retainer is often the better choice.

Let's explore why having a retained service is better for your business than relying on ad hoc services.

  1. Consistency is Key
    A PR retainer ensures a consistent presence in the media landscape. With ad hoc services, your PR efforts might be sporadic, resulting in irregular media coverage. Consistency builds brand recognition and trust over time, making your business more memorable in the eyes of your target audience.

  2. Long-Term Relationship
    Retainers foster long-term relationships between your business and the PR agency. This relationship lets the agency understand your brand, industry, and goals in-depth. Consequently, they can tailor their strategies to align perfectly with your business objectives.

  3. Strategic Planning
    PR retainers involve strategic planning. Your PR agency collaborates with you to develop a comprehensive PR strategy that aligns with your business goals. Ad hoc services tend to focus on immediate needs without the benefit of a long-term strategy.

  4. Cost-Effective
    Surprisingly, PR retainers can be cost-effective compared to ad hoc services. With a retainer, you typically pay a fixed monthly fee, allowing you to budget more efficiently. Ad hoc services might result in unpredictable costs, especially when dealing with unexpected PR crises.

  5. Proactive vs. Reactive
    PR retainers are proactive by nature. Your PR agency continually monitors your brand's reputation, identifies potential issues, and addresses them before they escalate. Ad hoc services tend to be more reactive, often addressing problems after they've surfaced.

  6. Crisis Management
    In the event of a PR crisis, having a retainer is invaluable. Your PR agency is well-prepared to handle crises because they intimately understand your brand and industry. Using an ad-hoc service will either preclude the service from undertaking crisis PR for you, or it will need to get up to speed with a lot of information, channels and messaging whilst dealing with media and an evolving situation.

  7. Media Relationships
    A PR retainer allows your agency to nurture lasting relationships with media outlets. Over time, this rapport can lead to more significant media coverage. Ad hoc services will have these connections if many of their clients serve the same market. If not, they will have to make a new approach to editors and journalists.

  8. Measurable Results
    Retainers provide a structured framework for measuring PR results, there will be a set amount of hours in the retainer, with activity aligned to that time and measurement tools in place to provide a ROI. This means that you can assess the effectiveness of your PR campaigns over time, look for desirable perception and behaviour shifts, and make data-driven decisions. Ad hoc services are not usually geared to providing much more than the impact of the specific activity in hand and not the long-term effect of the aggregated activity.

  9. Scalability
    As your business grows, a PR retainer can adapt to your changing needs, it’s a dynamic and responsive relationship, whereas ad hoc services are less likely to intuitively follow your lead as they are not continually engaged with your business.

  10. Comprehensive Services
    PR retainers often include a broader range of services, from media relations to content creation and crisis management. Ad hoc services might focus solely on specific tasks.
In conclusion, while ad hoc PR services have their place, PR retainers offer a comprehensive, consistent, and cost-effective approach to managing your brand's reputation. A retainer builds a long-term relationship, fosters proactive strategies, and provides valuable crisis management, making it the superior choice for many businesses aiming to elevate their PR game. Consider the long-term benefits of a PR retainer when planning your PR strategy.
Published by Paul Richardson December 12, 2023