For most companies, hiring a high-level PR team is expensive. Salaries can
range anywhere from $60,000 to $160,000 according to the PRSA Job Center. Of course that’s if you’re building a team based on a traditional model that has layers of management and comfy salaries for what is often average output.
Personally, I don’t like traditional PR teams. They’re often staffed by writers (or people who want to be writers) who couldn’t sell a steak to a starving man. They cost time and money, and they spend most of it writing press releases that no one will ever see.
Rather than build a traditional PR team, I’ve spent the last twenty years building PR teams that work like sales teams. And instead of giving comfy salaries based on entitlement and seniority, I’ve paid my PR team members just like salespeople—with a modest base and a motivating commission structure.
The result is that I end up paying for results, which is my favorite thing to pay for.
From my experience, building the best in-house PR team means hiring junior-level salespeople who are just starting out. This group is looking to gain experience, work for a cool company, have flexible schedules, and so forth.
These types of people are hungry for experience and won’t have an entitlement mentality. They’ll understand the importance of performance and work hard to meet their goals.
What to pay
Here’s how I like to structure their pay. (Note: I’d even be fine with making the salary lower and the bonus amount higher once you know the rough numbers to expect.)
Salary: $40,000–$45,000 per year—this is as much as is needed.
Bonus: $500 per month ($6,000 annualized)—tied to the employee hitting five to eight stories a month. Don’t set the bar too low (or too high).
Special bonuses: I’ve had awesome success with putting in a special bonus program to focus the efforts on landing top media outlets. List in advance which key outlets you want free PR in:
• Top five TV stations
• Top five radio stations
• Top five magazines
• Top five newspapers
• Top five websites or blogs
For each outlet, identify how much you’re willing to pay extra for a full feature (i.e., a story about your business, with photo—not merely a brief mention in an article). This type of bonus, ranging from $250 to $1,000 per story, can generate some great large- scale coverage.
Keep ‘em focused
A word of caution: don’t let bonuses for major outlets take your employees’ eyes off the prize. You still want each member of the PR team to land five to eight stories a month. The last thing you need is for a PR person to spend all his or her time trying to “bag the elephant.”
One year I set up a bonus structure like this for a five-person PR team. They landed nineteen of the twenty outlets we’d identified on the list, and they split the bonuses they earned as a team. Plus, they hit 90 percent of the month’s goals. Nice year.
The best part? I got this kind of output for a fraction of the cost that I would have spent building and paying a traditional PR team. It’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will take your company to the next level.