Public Relations: A Guide to Time, Money and Words

How Long Does It Take, And How Much Does it Cost?

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If you've never written a press release, or an op-ed -- or organized a press conference -- then you're probably wondering how long it might take to do yourself.

If you're going to hire it out or hire staffers to handle public relations, the natural question is "How much should it cost?"

The answers aren't easy, or hard-and-fast. There will be differences in what PR firms in Manhattan or Los Angeles charge per hour versus a firm in Wyoming or Alaska.

The time it takes to write something varies, even more, depending on the skill and experience of the writer  -- and more importantly, how many people have to sign off on the product before it's released into the wild.

Rough Word Counts

  • Statement - 100 to 300 words
  • Fact sheet - 200 words / one page with bullets
  • Letter to the editor - 200 to 250 words
  • Press release or news story - 400 to 800 words
  • Profile or magazine article - 1,000 to 3,000 words
  • Oped  (opinion piece) - 600 to 800 words
  • Printed Newsletter - 800 to 3,000 words
  • Speech - 100 words per minute; 500 words for a 5-minute speech; 3,000 words for a 30-minute keynote

It's Not Always About the Word Count

We talk about word counts, but what about public relation options that are available that don't count on "word count" to determine the cost.  Consider the following public relation options:

  • Award entry and recognition.  Helping your company get the recognition that it deserves by submitting your company for awards and well-deserved recognition.
  • Social media management.  A fairly new option offered by public relations firms, they will manage your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media platform accounts to ensure the positive press is far outweighing the negative. 
  • Media relations.  Don't discount this option, earned media is the best media in my opinion, but someone has to take the time to reach out to the influencers in your industry. 
  • Reputation management.  Very few companies can be without this since the invention of the internet.  If it's online, most believe it to be true, so you have to be monitoring your companies brand and reputation at all times. 
  • Thought leadership. Want to be known as the expert in your industry and field? It takes positioning your leaders as industry visionaries.

How Long Does It Take, and How Much Does It Cost?

Press releases and other products meant to inform are straightforward and easier to write. It takes longer -- and costs more -- to do harder, persuasive work, like letters to the editor, op-eds, and speeches.

How long is completely subjective. Public relations firms charge anywhere from $75 an hour to $750 an hour or more. Some require retainers for large projects, or for ongoing work.

Writing a press release might take an hour. It's the meetings ahead of time to gather facts, and after it's written to get input and do a new draft, that can take up more time.

Organizing media events, such as a press conference, can take days of preparation and rehearsal, along with a host of products to go along with the event: handouts, photos, posters. It's a big production.

An analogy that I think does a great job of explaining public relations is that investing in PR is like buying a new car.

 There are different features, models, and editions. Costs will vary depending on what you need and what you want.  It's the job of a public relations team to help you in developing your brand and creating awareness about your company.  You will get what you pay for, just like with a car.  

But none of these things are impossible to learn. If you're doing it all yourself -- or are new to dealing with the press -- read the opinion pages of major newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times, and fire up YouTube to watch press conferences that went great and ones that bombed. You'll get a feeling for what works, and what doesn't.

Edited by Laura Lake