Public Relations

What’s Covered in PR Agency Retainer?

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A PR agency retainer is an ongoing agreement made between a PR agency and their client regarding the scope of their work together.  What this looks like can differ from client to client and agency to agency due to the fact that retainers depend on what the specific client needs and what that agency is capable of offering.

Typically, a PR retainer is created when work together will be exceeding a singular project – it signals a longer relationship between the two companies whether that be 3 months, 6 months, a year, or longer and usually includes the option to renew. 

I’ve included below different aspects that are commonly covered in a PR retainer, however, it is important to note that not every situation that may arise during two companies’ partnership can be predicted or hit on in an initial document.  

It’s important before cementing the agreement of your long-term work together to ensure that the PR agency you are choosing understands this and is more than willing to roll with the punches, exceed set numerical goals, and generally just be amenable to supporting your company every step of the way.

With that in mind, below are some basic as well as more in depth components of a PR retainer.

Scope of PR Agency Retainer

One of the  most important parts of a PR retainer is defining the specific services that will be provided. This can include everything from media relations to crisis pr to content creation to award submissions to social media management. There is a laundry list of services a PR firm can provide so it’s important to determine which in particular can be expected as part of the retainer. 

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If a certain service is needed further down the line that has not been discussed previously such as managing a new executive’s social brand, PR retainers are adjustable. The scope of work previously decided upon can be discussed and edited along with any other changes that would need to be made as a result.

Objectives and Goals

The other most important part of a PR agency retainer after defining the scope of work is making sure you are aligned with the agency on what success looks like. 

Sometimes this could mean putting numbers to services such as 2 bylines a month or a set number of press hits a month. While these are good guidelines to set, it’s important to ensure that the team you are working with is dedicated to continuing their work even if goals are reached ahead of schedule.

To do this, setting numerical objectives may not be as effective as more qualitative goals. 

At Channel V Media we work with companies to determine three to five key narratives we want to see represented in the market that will propel their business goals. Every initiative, project, and campaign following will fall under one of those categories and success can be measured by a noted difference in how the media talks about and perceives the company based on those narratives.

In our experience, this works better as a measure of success and company’s see larger business success and more inbound leads from it. This is because while quantity is important if the quality isn’t there or the press hits don’t align with a company’s bigger objectives, they won’t see any ROI long term.

Reporting  and Meetings

So how can a client make sure these goals and objectives are being met?

In the retainer, process protocols such as frequency of progress reports or standard meetings are also determined.

For example, agencies may opt to give quarterly performance reports to the CEO of the company while also scheduling weekly meetings with their day to day contact. This way constant communication is being upheld to ensure both parties are completely aligned from week to week. 

Then, meetings with C-suite executives can be reserved for reporting on how results are measuring up to the goals and objectives set at the beginning of work together.  If the partnership extends over multiple years, these meetings can also be used to show the growth in the company’s presence in the media from year to year. 

Methods of day to day or week to week progress tracking can also be covered in a retainer. 

For example, at Channel V Media we keep a weekly tracker for clients which we update in real time with status updates such as published articles, determined dates of interviews or go live dates for press releases, upcoming awards, and more. This tracker is also home to 3-month planning and what’s in the pipeline for coming weeks. 

We go over all of this with the client weekly on a call so that they can know exactly what’s happening on our end and they can also inform us on anything new on their end that we need to plan for.

Retainer Fee

Once all of the above is discussed and an agreement has been reached – a price needs to be put to it all.

In the retainer will be the total fee associated with the contract along with the schedule of payments. It’s important to determine if this will be a monthly payment, a quarterly payment, or something else. It also may be beneficial to determine a protocol in the case of a situation where the fee is late. 

Billing and Additional Expenses

Retainer fees tend to be billed from month to month and cover solely the services discussed. Other additional costs such as release distributions or award entry fees will be paid for separately. 

It is important to discuss the preferred method of paying these additional costs such as whether you would prefer to be invoiced after the PR firm pays the cost or to pay for it directly yourself at the time it is due.

Termination Clause

While we would love for partnerships with clients to last forever, sometimes it is necessary for companies to end a contract with their PR agency. This could be due to acquisition, re-allocation of funds or priorities, or many other reasons. To be prepared in case this happens, it is beneficial to decide in the retainer terms of termination such as the needed notice period or other conditions.


A large part of a PR agency’s job is to help companies announce their news and achievements to the public in a way that garners positive attention. That requires a lid to be kept on news before their official announcement so confidentiality is key.

The PR retainer is where the confidentiality agreement lives. These can -again- look different from company to company since some businesses have more red tape than others. 


While there are other aspects that can be included in a PR agency retainer, the above are the most important parts to address when coming to an agreement about your work together. 

The goal for almost any business when hiring a PR company is to elevate their presence whether that be in the media, on social channels, or at events. The retainer is an official way of declaring how the PR agency is going to achieve this for you through their services and through the goals and objectives set specific to the individual business.

If you are in the process of hiring a PR firm or are thinking about beginning your search, below are a few other articles that may be helpful:

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