Why Small Businesses Don’t Like PR - Part 1

It bothers us every time we read or hear about a start-up or small business complaining that it wasn’t happy with its PR firm. Sure, there are two sides to every story, but we’re willing to wager that the primary cause for agency dissatisfaction among small businesses is – more often than not - poor planning and consideration before hiring the firm. This is not to point a finger at hiring companies. More often than not, they are justifiably too enmeshed in their own day-to-day details to understand the many nuances of public relations to properly study, hire and get value from a firm. But where does that leave them, and how can they overcome that hump?

Typically the largest complaint centers on cost and how it relates to value for the work provided. The average small company usually expects to pay $1to 2k a month for PR services but is astonished when firms start quoting upwards of $8 or $9k. The problem is that planning communications strategies and executing tactics are time- consuming.  The  average agency’s lowest hourly billing rate hovers around $115 for a junior person, and then starts around $200/hour for more experienced staffers.  We know it’s hard to forecast how long your work will take but even a conservative ten hours a week will put you on a fast track to $10k per month. As long as it benefits your company, it may be money well-spent.


The simple fact is that you have to treat the hiring of your PR agency similarly to (hopefully) the way you’ve treated every other aspect of your business. Choosing a firm requires time, research, planning, budgeting, benchmarking, and a clear communication of expectations.  

There’s no forgiving when businesses commit to PR but do not provide the resources or time needed for their agency to get the work done. An agency is only as good as the detail its clients provide, and its willingness to be engaged with the process. This starts early with getting materials and information to the agency quickly, and continues with being available to provide prompt answers to questions and reporter’s requests so that timelines are kept, and work can be done.

Our next post will focus on defining what you really seek from a PR firm. Click here for Part Two.

- Robert Udowitz