Bulletproof Your PR Budget

By Melanie Wilt

The last few years have given us record stock markets (both highs and lows), a pandemic, natural disasters and a completely new workforce dynamic. While there are very few things that are for certain, there are a number of things you can do today to bulletproof your budget for next year to ensure positive results for your organization, issues and brands. 

  1. Count on Not Counting on the Postal Service.
    It feels like we can retire the old adage “Come rain, come snow…” because the postal service just isn’t getting it done today. The woes with the US Postal Service continue to show they’re here to stay. Be prepared to communicate via text, social media and email in addition to direct mail. Add weeks to your production schedule to ensure delivery of the desired “in-hands date” for your magazine, postcard, save the date or annual report. Consider alternative shipping options for larger items., such as UPS, FedEx and DHL; you may also want to consider 3PL shipping and fulfillment service, which are available for both large and micro-fulfillment needs.
  2. Budget for Outsourcing Professional Communication Services
    Workforce will continue to be the key bottleneck in industries across the globe. Marketing, communication and public relations are no exception. These industries continue to be challenged with hiring enough qualified workers with the flexibility and pay that today’s workforce expects. You may find it more difficult to hire in-house professionals at the entry- and management level for positions such as content, event planners, social media and media relations. For each job you post, consider options such as hiring freelance or agency support to cover the position. When you determine your budget, keep in mind that agencies generally provide more resources for fewer hours clocked because of the efficiencies they have built in for quality and turnaround. For example, if you think you would need an in-house person for 20 hours a week, chances are an agency could provide you with the results you need for 10 hours a week, on a retainer of 40 hours a month. A good rule of thumb for budgeting is to use the agency’s average billable rate. Nationwide, the blended rate average is $240/hour but check local listings. In Springfield, Ohio, our blended rate is $150/hour and individual hourly rates range from $125-$325 depending on the employee and services performed. 
  3. Consider Inflation
    Inflation includes marketing and communication expenses – printing, ad space, agency time, payroll, pass-through goods and associated expenses. We thought inflation was bad at 5.4% last year, but it’s at over 8% this year! Everything is more expensive. To put that in perspective, it was 1.7% in August of 2019. Now is not the time to think you’ll be able to cut back on your marketing budget. Keep in mind that these increased inputs should be reflected in your pricing if you’re selling goods or services, as well. Don’t forget “it costs money to make money.”
  4. Don’t Write Off Virtual – Rethink It.
    Think about ways to save or redirect resources by conducting virtual events in place of traditional in-person events. Some may be “Zoomed out” from the pandemic, but even as we have become more “normalized,” we are seeing that virtual events, when done right, can still attract more attendees that would have problems attending an event in-person. It is often less expensive by cutting down on reservations, travel/transportation and many other expenses often associated with in-person events; can provide a better experience (all attendees are at the “front” of the audience and can see/hear everything); can create evergreen content with a longer shelf life; frees up valuable resources for other priority budget areas; and create new or enhanced revenue streams.
  5. Audit Before You Spend
    Take time to analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of your workforce and the projects and audiences you serve. Do the work to find out what you’re really putting into specific projects and budget areas, so you can see if you’re over-budgeting compared to the actual time and resources it takes to do the work. Or use the process to clarify goals, evaluate impactfulness, and determine where to invest to create more effective and efficient work that can lead to greater revenue and profit margins. A simple communication audit is a great way to take inventory of your activities and use data to determine the efficacy of each. You might be surprised that the “sacred cow” that consumes too much of your time each month has a low return on investment. 

If you have questions about how to make the most of your communication budget in the coming year, feel free to reach out to any of our account managers. We will be happy to provide you with a one hour consultation free of charge.