The PR Fuel Mailbag: the Cost of Public Relations, Press Release Don’ts, and More

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It’s once again time to dip into the PR Fuel mailbag for another batch of reader queries. How much do I charge for public relations services? Can a newswire service refuse to distribute my press release? Come find out the answers to these puzzlers from the world of public relations.

Question: I recently started a small public relations firm, doing press for my artist friends or those with start-up companies. Many are coming to me by word-of-mouth or are acquaintances, and I’ve faltered when naming a price for these services.  I have asked other public relations professionals to help me price the product, but they give me vague answers. Please help me start earning an income without out-pricing myself or undercutting my colleagues through ignorance.

Answer: Coming up with a pricing scheme is difficult for many businesses, especially for small public relations shops. There’s no easy answer; it’s going to be up to you as the entrepreneur to decide the  value of your services.

Pricing for public relations services differs from market to market, and from firm to firm. I’ve seen everything from firms that asked for $5,000-per-month retainers to $50,000 for a six-month program. Personally, I’ve charged anywhere from $100 to $1,500 to write a press release, and I’ve done plenty of work pro bono.

My suggestion is to try to get an idea of the budgets of your prospective clients; from there, you can figure out how to offer a package of services that meet their budgets while allowing you to actually profit from the work.

hate writing press releases

If you can’t get a ballpark figure on the budget, call some other public relations firms, tell them you’re launching a business, and see what they charge. That may sound a bit devious, but it’s not any different from an auto dealer checking out its competitors’ advertisements.

Question: I tried to issue a press release through a major newswire service but they rejected it. I ended up issuing a new press release, but I don’t feel that it was as effective as the original press release would have been. Do I have any recourse?

Answer: Press release distribution services have clear, if sometimes vague, disclaimers.

It’s important to remember that you’re just a guest when on someone else’s newswire service when you’re issuing a press release. Press releases that contain libelous, false, or misleading statements can lead to lawsuits, and lost business for the newswire service. Just because someone offers a newswire service, it doesn’t mean that they have to release every diatribe or advertorial you can come up with.

Having read this particular press release, it’s easy to understand why it was rejected. It contained libelous statements about two individuals and read like it was written by a fourth grader. I think the press release would have done more damage than good, and you should be relieved that someone at the newswire service felt compelled to reject it.

Question: How can I go about building solid relationships with business journalists? I know that’s a broad topic, and I also realize that there’s no one answer on how to pitch to business journalists. But I have yet to interact with any business journalists, so I was hoping you could point me in the right direction.

Answer: Building a relationship with a business journalist can be just like building a relationship with anyone else. For starters, treat business journalists with the same respect you wish to be accorded. Speak to them, not at them. Understand that they have deadlines, so respect those deadlines. Also understand that calling a business journalist near deadline can irritate them to no end.

Second, try to find a common ground. Do this by researching the people you pitch or deal with on a regularly. I deal with a handful of business journalists on a weekly basis. I know where each of them took their last vacation, and I know what ailed them the last time they were out sick.

Third, remember that journalists take a lot of pride in their work, but also remember that they don’t know everything. Be helpful when they call for information, and be helpful by pitching them stories that make sense for their beat and readership.

Lastly, just be yourself. If you’re good at making friends and easy to get along with, carry that attitude over to public relations. The vast majority of people I’ve dealt with on both sides of the fence — media and public relations — are outgoing. It makes sense, as both jobs entail communicating with individuals and large audiences.

Question: I had my client booked to appear on a television talk show, but his segment was cancelled due to a breaking news event. The producer apologized and said they would reschedule the segment, but it’s been a week and I have not heard back. What should I do?

Answer: Segments get bumped, stories get killed, and quotes get left on the cutting room floor. Unless you’ve got some real star power with your client — i.e., a celebrity or major CEO — you’re just out of luck for the time being. Send the producer an email thanking her for help and letting her know that your client is available in the future. Do not, however, say that your client is upset, or complaining. The producer’s job does not revolve around any one guest.

Most producers try their best to make up for bumped segments, and most journalists do a good job of making up for a killed story or quote. You just have to be patient. Then you pounce and remind the producer or journalist of the earlier snub.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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