The The PR Desk! is a regular column on FBC written by PR professionalHeather Travis to help food bloggers navigate the ins and outs of working with PR agencies and brands. This month, Heather is going to explain how PR and marketing budgets work.

Understanding how Brand Marketing Budgets Work

A big question I get asked a lot and that's very often a topic of the FBC member forums is:

How much should I be charging?

Let me tell you my friends, this is such a loaded question. So we’ve decided to unpack this money issue with a fun little series we're calling Show Me the Money!

In this series we'll explore the key ingredients in answering the question of "how much should I be charging?". We’ve touched on some of them in this post on defining your value, but in this series we'll go much deeper to really help you gain an understanding of what you should charge and why, both now and in the long term.

The first step in understanding how much you should charge is to gain an understanding of PR and marketing budgets - and how they work for social influencers

What Do PR & Marketing Budgets Look Like?

Budgets in PR and Marketing departments across Canada can vary greatly for a whole host of reasons including (but not limited to):

  • Location
  • Industry or sector
  • Age of the company
  • Business goals

All companies and businesses, from a one-woman bake shop to the global goliath, assign a portion of their dollars to "advertising and promotions."

To use a food analogy, they all bake a cake marked only for the PR and Marketing teams. These teams receive one cake each year and know well in advance how many slices they’ve got and how many people they need to feed.

Some cakes are really small and the slices are teeny tiny; some are huge and can feed hundreds very well.

So, how can you determine how big your slice of the cake is?

Not so fast, young grasshopper. We first need to understand the various types of cakes and all the ingredients that go in to making them.

different types of pieces of cake on a table

No Two Budgets Are the Same

Not-for-profits, agricultural groups, charities, and brand new businesses will always have very small budgets compared to large companies or start-ups with huge investment capital.

You absolutely could charge not-for-profits the same corporate rate you'd charge a giant company, but by doing so you're limiting your opportunities for working with them more frequently.

I love this article by Melissa Hartfiel about the value in working for a smaller amount (or free). I wish more bloggers would support small passion projects (food groups, farmers, small businesses) just because they love them and want to build up a portfolio of meaningful work. But I digress … we’re talking money right now.

The key thing we need to remember is budgets are different because the companies are different, their industries are different, or their business goals are different, or all of the above. No two budgets are the same.

Breaking Down the Budgets: Departments & Agencies

Within each "advertising and promotions" budget cake there could be one or ten (or any other number) of departments that each have tactics assigned to them. Dollars from that cake are allocated to them so they can achieve their goals, which have been set out in the company's yearly business plan.

In some companies those departments talk to each other, share meetings and combine budgets. But in others, you wonder if departments even know each other exist; they're so large and there are so many agencies doing random contract work it’s impossible to know what’s what.

Which is why sometimes it can be very hard to "collaborate" on the fly! Especially when some companies and departments are used to strict quarterly corporate meetings and teams operating in unique silos, all vying for dollars and attempting to demonstrate their value (you know … keep their jobs).

RELATED:  PR Desk: How to Develop and Pitch a Big Picture Brand Campaign

Business Planning Cycles

Not only are budgets determined long before they get executed (i.e., when you're actually doing the "blogger program"), but the tactics are as well.

The menu, in effect, is set.

Each company knows what it's serving, to how many and when, long before it actually happens.

Think of when you order a wedding cake - you order it months in advance based on how many guests will be attending!

This is why the answer to a cold pitch (when you reach out to pitch with no prior contact or social media engagement with the brand or agency) asking for dollars mid-business cycle is always a no … because the budgets dollars are already assigned.

Know this, accept this, and follow my advice on long pitches — as in, build relationships and pick up the phone.

This will help you immensely in figuring out what the budgets and goals of your desired brand partners look like. You need to know when they plan on making the cake, what ingredients they hope to use, and how you can get a slice.

The only way you'll know this is by building a long-term relationship and starting a conversation now. Otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of their schedules, timing, and budgets forever, rather than taking the blogging bull by the horns and getting it done on your own.

In the next few articles in this series we’ll be covering even more on how you can grab that bull and scream "Show Me the Money!" But for now …

Let’s Summarize What We Know About Marketing Budgets

  • No two budgets are the same (and we didn’t even discuss Canadian vs. American brand partners …)
  • Budgets and business plans are set well in advance
  • There can be multiple departments and agencies all vying for dollars

While all this may seem a bit broad, one specific I can share easily when it comes to marketing and PR budgets is this:

no matter what the budget (or industry), there will be measurement to track how budget dollars are doing.

Show Your Value & Demonstrate ROI

If Marketing Departments don't hit their targets or goals, they run the risk of having their budget cut. In other words, next year, they get a smaller cake, which means you will get a smaller slice (or no slice at all).

Now more than ever, demonstrating your value means showing your ROI (return on investment). That’s the only way to ensure budget dollars will continue to be allocated to your co-branding efforts and hopefully give companies the ingredients they need to make a bigger budget cake next time around.

So always recognize that you need so show an agency or brand how you can help them hit their annual goals. That way, everyone gets cake!

See you next time as we chat about how to determine your worth.


Heather Travis is a PR professional and lover of all things creative. She has extensive experience developing and implementing integrated public relations and marketing programs for agricultural brands, producers and processors, as well as high end sporting goods. She’s a DIY junkie with a mean power tool addiction, and can often be found painting, refinishing, and scouring both junk yards and antique markets for her next fix … err, piece of content for her blog Find Heather on Twitter @heathertravis and Instagram @heathertravis.

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Hello, Heather, could you please explain how exactly an average blogger taps into this knowledge? I’m a little fuzzy on that connection. Thanks!

Heather Travis

Hi Karen – hopefully this article (future, and past ones too!) help acquire this knowledge:) Really though, the best way for anyone to ‘tap into’ a brand and gain insights into their budgets, planning cycles, goals etc is to start a relationship. Like any relationship you won’t be able to have a first date and launch into all the intimate questions around budgets – but after time, proving you are trustworthy, delivering on your promises etc you will then able to have deeper conversations with your brand contacts and start to really dive into the nitty gritty:) Hope that helps! And thank you for reading:)


Thank you, Heather — might you elucidate a bit more? How, exactly, does a food blogger earn money via routes you suggest? When people talk about establishing “relationships” I get a little fuzzy. What is the actual product/service? What does the blogger actually get paid for? Thanks?

Heather Travis

Hi Karen, Bloggers can get paid for literally hundreds of different types of work or services. Some examples include: recipe development, food photography, video content and creation, written content, social media content, engagement with their readership, in-person events, promotions or sponsorship…the list goes on, but you see where I’m going:) I suggest giving a read through all the previous PR articles (specifically the ones on pitching) to help you gain a better understanding of the relationship matter. Hope this helps!

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