The cost of PR: How much should you be charging?

Companies cannot simply purchase a positive reputation and credible image—because they aren’t for sale. Building strong relationships[1] with markets requires relentless honesty and compelling storytelling directed at the desired audience. Great publicity must be earned[2].

Businesses and individuals can certainly work on public relations campaigns themselves with existing resources, but they often need help from consultants or agencies.

So how much should you charge them for establishing trust[3] and enhancing the image of their products and services?

Off-the-shelf pricing

Many consultants and public relations firms offer individual items off-the-shelf such as TV, radio and print placements, thought leadership op-eds, press releases and blog posts.

It often represents the best option for those without much experience and who want to stick their finger in the bathwater before committing to a specific person or business.

Lamont Johnson with The Art Department typically invoices $800 to write and distribute a press release on wire services such as PR Newswire and PRWeb. Without wire distribution, Johnson charges $500 to write the release and send it to his own proprietary media contacts.

John Stellar, president of Everyone’s PR[4] based in southern California, bills clients $1,000 to draft two media documents—including the company biography and a press release—and a $250 per month subscription fee. After that he adds $250 for each local print and radio placement, $500 for local television coverage, $750 for national print and radio placements and $1,500 for national television placements.

Stellar also sends invoices for payment only after an article appears or a TV or radio interview concludes. His approach reflects an industry trend toward ‘performance-based’ pricing.

“Our clients love this approach and it has given many more people the opportunity to use our services because in this recovering economy they don’t have that $2,500 to $4,000 a month retainer fee to risk,” Stellar says.


The gravitation toward performance-based pricing and away from hourly rates resulted from customers’ demand for measurable value.

As freelance consultant Ryan Waggoner[5] explains, “When you bill hourly, you are putting yourself in a position where you are incentivized to take as long as possible to deliver the results that your client is trying to buy…Wouldn’t it be better for your clients if you were incentivized to constantly be looking to deliver the results they’re trying to buy even faster and more efficiently?”

Still, hourly rates remain a staple of PR pricing and vary depending upon experience and deliverables.

Leigh Dow with the 48 West Agency[6] in Phoenix, for example, charges between $120 and $140 per hour.

Tami Belt with Blue Cube Marketing Solutions[7] in Las Vegas bills $100 per hour with a 15-hour monthly minimum. She breaks it down into five hours for a typical press release, 10 to 15 hours for a feature media pitch, two to four hours for bios and one to three hours for testimonials.

Rhonda Rees[8] in the suburbs of Los Angeles offers the options of a $150 hourly rate, $500 and more on special projects and monthly retainers of between $1,500 and $2,500.

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