June 5, 2023 0 Comments

How to Gamify Your PR Budget

Preparing Your Brand for Economic Uncertainty — Without Sacrificing Results

PR services budget

Recent layoffs and economic concerns are impacting major brands across every sector, triggering a profound transformation in the PR landscape. With layoffs reaching a peak of over 140,000, the highest since the onset of COVID-19, companies are grappling with economic hurdles including market volatility, cost pressures, supply chain disruptions, consumer confidence fluctuations, and intense competition. 

In this complex environment, brands must restrategize for resilience to navigate these challenges successfully. The need for brand leaders to have control, flexibility, and transparency in their relationships with marketing and PR partners has become more vital than ever. After all, a PR agency should be a true strategic partner, helping their clients to survive in increasing uncertainty. The problem here is that traditional PR account and contract structures have proven outdated and no longer align with the evolving needs of modern brands. The rigid and inflexible framework common to most agencies lacks clarity and adaptability, prevents results from being tracked effectively, and impedes on the ability to stay ahead in a competitive market. 

Given these challenges, it has become crucial for the PR industry to transition into a new model that empowers brand leaders to manage their PR budget and strategy. That’s the approach we’ve taken at Trust Relations, as part of our mission to reinvent this industry for the better. The shift enables us, and like-minded PR practitioners, to make timely adjustments and more informed decisions. Whether agencies can be nimble enough will be a deciding factor in every firm’s ability to respond to changing market dynamics and emerging opportunities. With a flexible structure like ours, brand leaders can act with greater agility and tailor their strategies to align with specific goals and objectives. 

We’re taking this economic reckoning as a proof point. We believe that the old model is broken, and the future of PR will require transparent relationships between agencies and clients. When times are tough, it’s essential that we as PR practitioners can openly discuss strategies, challenges, and results with our clients. 

In this blog post, we will explore more of the limitations of traditional PR structures and shed some light on how our approach to gamifying your budget generates mutually beneficial outcomes that drive growth and success.

Rigid Budget Structures Are Outdated and Risky

Between the inability to respond to crises, lack of flexibility and inconsistency of results, the risks associated with a rigid PR structure are serious.

At the most prominent PR agencies, retainers are set in stone — disregarding the actual hours worked on an account or the internal distribution of resources. Unfortunately, this prevailing approach has given rise to a culture where the primary objective is to meet the minimum. In short: After an account team reaches that month’s KPIs for a certain client, they often check out, scale back their efforts, and disengage for the remainder of the month. This pattern can be demotivating for account teams and downright unfair to clients who have no idea how much work they’re actually paying for with their limited marketing budgets. It also breeds a reputation for uncertainty and distrust amongst brands, regarding the nature of the work they are paying for and the genuine value they derive from it.

Moreover, if account teams do not meet their monthly KPIs, they may feel pressured to prioritize these metrics above all else, potentially diverting their attention from delivering tangible results and value for their clients. As a result, overservicing and under-servicing are rampant, and time allocated to each account is inconsistent. 

A rigid structure also fails to foster a culture of excellence, as it hinders the ability of a PR team to adjust and innovate. Brands may find themselves locked into agreements that do not reflect the changes that their businesses can experience on a month-to-month basis, including shifts in the economy, business growth, changing investor priorities, emerging opportunities, and evolving PR and marketing landscapes.

To mitigate these risks, PR agencies and clients alike must embrace a more flexible and adaptive approach that accommodates the evolving needs of businesses in a progressive environment.

A New (and Better) Approach

At TR, we have developed a unique approach to gamify your budget and provide complete transparency in our retainers. Using our proprietary Points System, we work with our clients closely, to keep track of their spend while making sure they are fully aware of where points are allocated each month. Each tactic is assigned a standard number of points, which captures the time and value of the expertise it will take to execute them effectively. 

When we calculate the allotment of points for a particular tactic, we consider everything from the time it will take to complete, the revisions we can accommodate to get the job done efficiently, the experience level of the person who will take on the task, and the factors at play to ensure a high-quality product or outcome. Our blended rate approach allows us to account for factors like team member skill sets versus the time it will take to achieve the desired results. This method safeguards against overworking our team and ensures they can accomplish all services we commit to without stretching their capabilities. 

A gamified PR budget system also improves flexibility. We can pivot between capabilities as fast as a client’s needs might change. Suppose you’re a client that has reached an inflection point for growth, and you’re ready to “bust out of your jeans” and scale your PR spend. In that case, we’re able to tailor and adjust quickly and scale up our efforts right alongside you. 

Setting clear expectations and establishing true strategic partnerships with our clients allows us to co-pilot the PR and marketing journey. It prevents us from rushing to “squeeze in” extra services that the team may not have the bandwidth for — an approach common to mainstream PR agencies that often results in projects being, well, half-assed. 

With our approach, if a brand anticipates a hectic quarter or has evolving priorities, we can swiftly refocus the account’s efforts to meet client goals without sacrificing quality of work. And it puts the client in full control of where that effort is focused month-to-month. 

Overall trust, flexibility, and nimbleness are essential ingredients for successful PR results. Building trust forms the foundation of a solid client-agency relationship and opens the floodgates for open communication, collaboration and shared goals. Flexibility allows PR professionals to respond quickly to changing circumstances. And nimbleness helps your account team to identify new opportunities. Together, you’ll build confidence knowing your team has the ability to deliver on your objectives while maintaining a balanced workload.

Ready to kick start your PR program? You can learn how to partner with us here



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Trust Relations Team