There’s a joke that the public relations industry is bad at public relations since most people don’t really know what PR specialists do. Having a fundamental understanding of that is the first step toward grasping the limitations of public relations and how they may apply to your business. A PR specialist’s job is to control the narrative around you or your brand while building relationships with consumers, influencers and others in the industry. The best PR professionals do this by bringing their contacts and experiences together with creativity and strong messaging strategies.
Employing a public relations professional is, in theory, a fantastic idea for nearly any business or brand. But there are options beyond having an internal PR manager since all kinds of public relations companies offer a variety of service levels. For most small- to medium-sized companies, employing an outside PR agency for special launches and events is more productive and cost-effective than having an in-house person.
People mistake public relations as being marketing or advertising. It’s not. Good public relations creates unpaid publicity, not paid. It’s earned and credible, not purchased and skeptical public mentions. An old saying goes, “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.” All of that is a tall ask of a single person on your payroll.
If you’re entering a pivotal era for your company, with large projects looming and much news generation ahead, it can be wise to have an in-house pro. Hiring a PR specialist should mean getting someone who comes with great contacts, who has been networking for years and is savvy about the media organizations you’re hoping to get press through.
A great public relations manager generates buzz around a company or a person. They know how to create a narrative that builds drama and attention. But the pros and cons of a public relations career come down to relationships – and if your PR professional has incredible relationships and an eye for stories, they could be a brilliant hire. Having that kind of story-making, news-driving professional working for your brand around the clock can be incredibly advantageous during large projects and huge launches.
Glassdoor reports that the average income for a senior-level PR professional in 2019 is $86,000 a year. The low end is $55,000, with the high end into the $130,000 range, and that’s for just one pro – one way, one idea, one game plan. This doesn’t include their benefits, their vacation time, having to cover them during said vacations and so on. Hiring an outside agency could deliver much bigger results thanks to several other professionals all playing on one team, sharing ideas, hashing things out and channeling their creativity into one outcome.
Public relations means having great relationships with the media, but they’ll need access to massive databases that are subscription-based, which will add over $26,000 a year in addition to the salary. And that’s not even all the databases, that’s just a couple of the big ones. With over 250,000 employees in U.S. publications, will your one PR manager be able to nurture all those relationships?
The great PR professionals know which side their bread’s buttered on, and the great ones are much more likely to work for agencies. Why? As mentioned, agencies have the databases, the monitoring software, the resources and the creative environment that helps them do their jobs.
Ultimately, to get the best PR coverage, hiring an in-house public relations manager is really only a great solution for huge brands, and even then they’ll likely serve as a liaison between an outside agency and the company.