Agencies should chase the Dragon's advice on £3k PR budgets for start-ups

"If you spend less than £3,000 a month on PR, you might as well not spend any money at all," was the advice on Dragon's Den this week.

Dragon's Den featuring Deborah Meaden (centre) and Piers Linney (right)
Dragon's Den featuring Deborah Meaden (centre) and Piers Linney (right)

The words were spoken by Deborah Meaden as part of her explanation why she was turning down a pitch from a pair of fresh Indian sauces entrepreneurs for investment of £50,000.

Liam Keogh, one of the directors of Palm PR, which is the agency used by the entrepreneurs, argues that PR agencies should bear the Dragon’s words in mind when fixing their monthly fees:

On Sunday night, I proudly tuned in to see one of my agency’s longstanding clients secure £50,000 of investment on Dragons’ Den.

Vini & Bal’s, an innovative range of chilled, fresh and authentic curry sauces, traded 30% of equity in their company for capital from telecommunications entrepreneur Piers Linney.

Their pitch mentioned the high profile we have generated for them to date, but Deborah Meaden’s reaction to this was interesting.

Meaden bowed out of the round, implying that the £50,000 they requested was not enough to cover what she believes should be spent on PR.  

"I have a view," she said, "if you spend less than £3,000 a month on PR, you might as well not spend any money at all."

It was encouraging to see a well-known and highly successful investor outside the industry acknowledge the worth of the service that PR provides and the need for it to be adequately resourced.

Her statement opened debate on Twitter and it was surprising to see individuals working within the industry deriding her pricing structure as too high.

At Palm, we naturally believe that that a PR campaign is the best investment a business can make, especially if it is a new brand launching to market, and that this needs to be properly resourced to guarantee the best results.

However, if there are parts of the industry that do not even believe in the value of PR, how will we ever make the wider economy understand and appreciate its true power?

Fierce competition is the best way to guarantee the long-term health of any industry. However, in a sector that has always struggled to convince the rest of the business world of its value, agencies working towards a race to the bottom on price denigrate our service and reduce the viability of the sector as a whole.

A successful agency will know how much it costs to adequately resource an impactful campaign. Underpricing will only ever result in low salaries, stretched professionals and lacklustre PR, which causes reputational damage to the industry.

Low fees can be a tempting starting point for new agencies.

However, they will ultimately trap these businesses in a vicious circle, with an ever expanding base of low-paying, churning clients that the organisation cannot possibly service to the standard needed to maintain accounts and build their reputation.

The PR industry needs to believe in the value of the service that it provides and set fees accordingly. For new agencies, a smaller base of well-funded accounts will always be a better way to grow than a sprawling amount of under-resourced clients.

The former scenario allows staff to be well remunerated and ensures successful campaigns by providing them with the means they need to be executed well. Both these things improve the industry as a whole and benefit all the companies who operate within it.

Palm PR is a food and drink public relations and social media agency. Clients include: Joe & Seph’s popcorn, The Collective gourmet yoghurt, Vini & Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces, Manomasa Tortilla chips.

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