Why do people say public relations is free? I get it, publicists work to obtain third party generated publicity. However, the work that is required to manage such an orchestration does not come free. It requires extensive time and effort of potentially numerous qualified individuals that most certainly get paid for their hard work. And beyond the expense incurred from people, there are expenses in development and execution. For example, any research required typically has an expense related to it. Perhaps the exposure from an event is free, but the event itself can be a large expense. And the development and distribution of press kits or releases bears a cost. Then there are the costs of tracking and measuring campaigns.
In my former position I managed our marketing budget and know first hand that public relations is far from free. It can be expensive. Sure, it is not nearly as expensive as the costs to produce advertising and buy space. But there are expenses incurred by organizations to manage public relations that hit the marketing budget. In my opinion instead of saying public relations is free, it should be said that often public relations exposure can be effective and cost efficient resulting in a positive return on investment.