Should You Hire a PR Pro?

Every now and then, I am asked by designers about whether they should hire a PR firm. Most of those who have done serious due diligence have gotten only as far as the monthly fee which can often run $5,000. Combine that with the fact that it can take months—or years—for these efforts to pay off and, well, I can count on two fingers the number of firms that believe it has a positive ROI.

However, on several occasions I’ve had designers mention to me a firm that is, by their estimation, truly blowing and going. Growing by leaps and bounds. And guess what? That firm doesn’t just hire a PR firm, but has hired a full-time, dedicated PR person.

Can You Justify a Full-Time PR Person?

There’s a fairly simple formula to answer this question whether we’re dealing with a PR person or any other employee. As a rule of thumb, just assume that any employee must pay for themselves three times over in terms of gross revenue. This is not far from the 2.5:1 or 3:1 ratio that architectural firms use to determine how much to pay a fully billable employee.

So, suppose a full-time PR person cost $75,000 a year. (I know this will vary by geographic area and experience.) In this case, your logic to justify would be whether or not this person can add $225,000 to your total sales, each and every year. Of course we could go further here and calculate your contribution margin to see if the profit—not just the sales—is worth it, but I cover that in plenty of other places.

What Would Your PR Person Do To Add $225,000 in Sales?

My guess is that your mind is a whir with ideas as to what you could do with a 40-hour-a-week professional. For example:

  • You could be represented at every possible networking event from chambers to golf tournaments to charities;
  • You would have someone who knew every writer, blogger, and other influencer in your market;
  • You could have someone who would design contests and gifting strategies for former clients, architects, and others;
  • You could have someone stay on top of awards competition and national magazines
  • You could have someone follow up on your current and former clients to discreetly secure referrals
  • You could have someone in charge of your social media, if that is in their skill set.
  • And, you can add your 50 other wish list items here.

An Interior Design Firm PR Person Job Description

Here’s the resume of the interior designer who works full time for that “blowing and going” design firm. I’m keeping it anonymous since I don’t know this firm. “Jane” is not her real name.

Jane is responsible for overseeing our overall marketing plan and building/maintaining relationships with media and industry partners. She has been in the luxury real estate and design industry for the past two decades, from corporate management positions to brand development, marketing, and creative direction. Jane is an avid traveler and foodie, which works in our favor, because she always brings in new design inspiration and lifestyle trends from exploring new cities, boutique hotels, and restaurants. She thrives on connecting with people and loves sharing our design projects with magazines, bloggers, and other media. Connect with Jane if you would like to coordinate an interview, photoshoot, coffee meet-up, or invite us to an industry event!

Not a Sales Person…Exactly

Now I’ll ask you: What’s the difference between this position and a sales person? Or a business development person or whatever you wish to call it. I suspect the main difference is the background, but let’s face it, this is selling. Attempting to secure new clients through direct contact is selling. And I can also count on one hand the number of interior design firms who have successfully hired a dedicated sales person.

I’d rather see someone hire a full-time PR person than hired any third party firm with which I am familiar. But it would still take a phenomenal person as even the 3-to-1 rule just barely makes this position profitable. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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