It’s the age-old question for many organizations: Should we implement earned media on a project basis or engage through a sustained effort? Some businesses explore earned media through a one-off PR project, perhaps because they don’t want to make the full-time PR investment that comes with a retainer. They might instead disseminate a news release about a big product launch or invest in developing and contributing an article for a specific issue of an industry trade publication.

While these can be good opportunities, when done by themselves, they don’t provide the best return on investment. Why? Because one-off PR does not deliver in the same way as a strategically integrated campaign. It takes planning, strong implementation and time to achieve measurable results.

With a PR retainer, an agency engages with an organization for an ongoing period and provides a range of services. To maximize impact, the agency will typically first work with the company in determining an objective or goal for the year. They may do this to increase the size of or reach of the audience, boost sales, improve brand reputation, or be known as an industry thought leader. The agency will work with the business to define its key marketing initiatives. Together, both organizations will determine what PR tactics will be included in a retainer to meet those business objectives.

With sustained PR, there are the advantages of:

  1. Building long-term relationships with editors — With sustained PR, the agency cultivates long-term relationships with editors. Sometimes this takes a few months to pay off, but the company-editor relationship can become reciprocal — instead of the company just pushing content to editors when it works for them. This long-term strategy is the opposite of one-off PR, where media outreach usually ends with a project’s commencement.
  2. Messaging focusing — With sustained PR, the agency can follow industry trends and tie messaging to customer pain points, while building the organization as an industry thought leader. By engaging in regular PR on behalf of the company, the PR agency will know what’s hot. They follow the editorial calendars of relevant industry publications and know when there may be good fits for articles that the company is already or could be developing. PR and content development teams should work together to develop relevant articles to pitch with messages tied to a client’s objectives and goals. You’re also controlling the messaging; with contributed articles, you increase the likelihood that your company’s coverage will be positive.
  3. Establishing employees as industry experts — When an organization can repeatedly reach out to editors with timely, valued content through its subject matter experts, it slowly becomes a “go-to” source for other thought leadership editorial or quotes on industry trends. Moving forward, an editor will more likely ask for help from trusted sources.
  4. Gaining momentum — With regular coverage, an organization can increase share of voice in the industry compared to its competitors.
  5. Measuring — Through a sustained PR effort, you can measure your results from month to month and year over year to determine what is working best and to shift strategy, if needed.
  6. Connecting to other paid and owned efforts — PR should work with paid, shared and owned tactics. And don’t forget: the content that you create for other marketing purposes can be reused. A webinar or industry study could be turned into a thought leadership article that may be printed in a trade publication. Or a PR article that gets placed in an industry trade publication can be leveraged on social media. Remember to think about paid efforts that might support your earned media. Work smarter, not harder.
  7. Creating efficiencies — With a sustained PR effort, you get a team that is committed to and becomes an expert in your business. They are constantly reviewing opportunities and can act quickly because they know who the editors are and what they’re looking for, both of which saves time. That means when you need to send a news release or reach out to a publication, they’re not starting from scratch with research.

You are likely knee-deep in annual planning and budgeting right now. As you allocate monies to your integrated marketing plan, consider how much to devote to a PR retainer. Because a thoughtful long-term investment in content and PR could really make the difference in how your company is perceived within your industry.