by | Feb 29, 2024

2024 PR Budget Breakdown Tips

By Olivia Manning, Senior Account Manager, Touchdown PR

Behind every great PR plan is a discussion around budgets. While talking about money isn’t exactly the most exciting part of a new business pitch or annual client review (for me, anyway), it’s a necessary conversation from which priorities can be set and outcomes produced.

However, for marketing teams, understanding how to set an appropriate budget can be something of a minefield, especially when kickstarting a new PR programme. In early conversations with prospects, the question we often get asked is: “How much should we be spending on PR?”. And while most professionals are probably tired of the retort, “how long is a piece of string?,” the truth is, it varies. Unfortunately, there’s no set formula, but if we were to magic up an equation, it would look something like:

Put simply, when calculating a PR budget, marketing and comms managers need to weigh up their business goals, current and future needs, and how equipped they are to meet these. 

This isn’t a one time exercise either. The new year signals a prime opportunity for organisations to review budgets, forecast for the year ahead and understand if their current campaign is driving the most business value.

Whether approaching a new PR partner or reviewing the budget of a current campaign, this blog will serve as a guide for those in this position, providing strategic insights and actionable tips, as well as wider industry trend input.

It starts with strategy

The best PR strategies are intentional and this is exactly how budgets should be determined. Firstly, it’s important to understand what marketing and wider business goals are in play, and then consider what role PR has in this. A key purpose of PR is to drive customer leads by building a company’s brand and reputation, making the job of the sales team easier.

However, PR goals may not just be sales and revenue-related. For example, a company may need PR support in the build up to a big company milestone, product launch, customer tender or as they head towards an IPO. Once these core goals are understood, organisations can consider where their PR spend will have the most impact, and how best to break down resourcing to drive business value.

Breaking down your PR budget

A PR budget can be broken down into several essential components such as account management, content creation, events, awards and speaking programs, analyst relations, crisis comms and social media support.

How these should be prioritised varies from company to company. For example, if an organisation has multiple global agencies they need help unifying, account management will be a priority. For a company who is feeling the aftershocks of a recent cyber attack, crisis comms will likely be a big focus. For those with consumer-facing products, social media support may be more important. 

Typically, a good PR programme has a mix of different components that can be prioritised as and when needed. It’s not a static, even split. Having a KPI to enter one award a month, for example, is all well and good until there are suddenly six awards with deadlines over a two-week period. It’s important to look at goals across the wider quarter and year, and remain flexible while doing so.

Reviewing your needs and goals

When developing a PR budget, it’s good practice to evaluate the year before, assessing what worked successfully, as well as areas for improvement. To drive meaningful results, it’s important to review the individual elements of the PR programme, as well as the message penetration of key themes. 

Marketing teams can also provide reference points beyond their own results. For example, conducting a competitor analysis which utilises benchmarking tools like share of voice (SOV) enables marketers to map themselves against industry peers. With this, they can identify areas in which they may wish to focus in the year ahead – such as entering more industry awards – and then work with their PR team to allocate a portion of the budget to support this goal.

Looking ahead

When forecasting PR budget needs for the year ahead, marketing teams also need to assess what’s coming up in the pipeline from both a business and industry perspective. PR needs change year-on-year as organisations review business growth strategies, so the budget should reflect this. For example, if a company is looking to grow their cybersecurity arm, portioning a select amount of budget to drive cybersecurity messaging is good practice.

In the PR world, a number of trends are impacting how we work, which also need to be taken into consideration when allocating budgets. Over the last year, for example, several vertical publications have stopped accepting contributed bylines. As a result, organisations that target specific industries like retail may wish to reduce the volume of thought leadership they’re producing and instead focus on rapid response commentary or customer news that will reach their target audiences.

Adding to this, it’s important to ensure PR plans are adaptable to unforeseen changes, challenges and opportunities, pivoting on campaign plans where needed. Just look at how the pandemic forced companies across every industry to rethink their PR budgets. You never know what’s coming around the corner, so being ready to change course is essential.

Optimising spend

In the business world, there’s a pressure on marketing teams to consistently outperform the year before. As a result, often the inclination is to set goals to increase PR coverage numbers year-on-year.

However, if unable to secure extra budget to invest in additional resourcing or projects like research which can drive coverage wins, the focus should be in evaluating current tactics – looking at how to optimise the current budget to deliver more impact. For example, if working across multiple regions, considering how sharing content and pitches could free up resourcing to drive additional results.

Ultimately, a targeted, strategic and flexible approach to the PR budget will serve to strengthen overall campaign impact and results, providing opportunities for continuous spend optimisation. At Touchdown PR, we’re passionate at helping our clients through every step of their journey, helping them to choose the strategy that best fits their needs and objectives. 

Want to optimise your PR budget? Prepare with a refreshed approach to gaining impactful coverage, devised by our experts here at Touchdown. Bring your project to us and contact our team to arrange a discovery chat.