PR Projects and Retainers

A survey by Skywrite Communications, reported in PR Week, said that a new survery found that many in-house and marketing PR pros thought that the retainer system was outdated and becoming irrelevant in the current economic climate.

Personally, I disagree with this. Much work at the moment will be project based, largely due to the fact that brands are unwilling to commit to a long term relationship whilst the world is in economic meltdown – this makes perfect financial sense. In consumer PR in particular, the launch of a product may last only 3 months, and repeat business may take another 12 months to occur – especially if the brand only releases one product a year.

However, as we see ourselves walking further from the financial cliff, brands will once again want to work with agencies on a long-term basis. Why? Because it enables the brand and the PR team to get to know each other better, the PR agency will feel more comfortable providing tough advice, and the building of a relationship makes working much easier.

If, as a brand, you are changing the team that looks after your PR every 3 months, you are losing out on their understanding of your brand and will lose out on the opportunity of building a sustainable long term marketing strategy. Of coursem this will depend on the exact industry you are in.

Take computer games. If, for example, you are a games publisher, who releases a new title every 2 months, across different genre of game, you will of course look to find the most suitable agency to PR each individual title – a consumer agency with brilliant sports gaming experience, may not necessarily be the right choice for a platformer.

However, if you are food and drinks company who do maybe two launches a year, you want to hire a firm who will be able to deliver bespoke campaigns but as part of an overall goal. They will get to know your brands and the way you want them to be perceived by the big wide world.

Or take a mobile phone handset company, who release a series of phones each year – you need an agency who will understand your audience and be able to connect with them time after time.

The retainer is not dead, it is merely in hibernation until the cash begins to flow once again.

2 thoughts on “PR Projects and Retainers

  1. I also think that “retainer” does not mean “passive agency” at all.

    A fix income can be a sustainable way to think “strategically”. I also think that it’s less expensive for clients to have a retainer than to pitch every 2 weeks a new agency. There’s something more expensive than a service provider: it’s the time (and so the money) you lose in trying to only make tactic communications

  2. Totally agree, it’s exactly the same if someone were to fire and hire employees every month and why staff benefits are an important lever for companies to encouarge their employees to stay. It’s too time consuming, and therefore expensive, to look for a new role-filler each time!

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