There is no doubt that PR retainers have been under pressure for some time.
Many marketing budgets across sectors are being analysed, scrutinised and accepted, usually after more thorough questioning than had taken place in the past. It is not a new development. It is though a good one for clients and in turn agencies as they have to deliver. It is something that improves the reputation of the industry.
How many businesses want to “tie” themselves down to a retainer?
Wouldn’t a project model with great flexibility be better?
The answer is I think perhaps yes in the short-term or for a very specific campaign with a set goal that has to be achieved in a short space of time.
If it is a new experience for a business then perhaps it is understandable.
However, there are good reasons why it can be to the advantage of agencies and clients:
- Retainers give agencies time to learn about the business, its employees and sector in more depth.
- This helps lead to better results as the experience gained identifies strategies and tactics that work and the agency becomes more effective the longer the relationship progresses.
- Retainers show a commitment from a client to its PR or marketing supplier, which should pay itself back with additional commitment and results.
- Retainers help agencies plan, grow and develop, projects make it harder to do so. This means that the offering of the agency is improved and not open to the whims of the ups and downs of work-flow.
- Retainers help build personal rapport, which is key to good PR.
- Retainers give the agency a sign of confidence in its decision to hire them.
- If clients chop and change agencies regularly it is a warning sign to the supplier, it immediately fills them with suspicion. It is not the best way to start a relationship.
While it is a competitive market for PR suppliers, the same rules still apply regarding retainers.
Yes, clients want to have a wide selection.
Yes, they are more careful about budgets than they have ever been.
Yes, the retainer model does not seem as attractive as it once was.
But it is worth considering if you want your agency to perform to its best abilities.