The social media space is still producing a lot more questions than answers around PR. After “what do I do?” or “who do I call?” one of the common queries bandied about revolves around cost. Does social media work bill at similar rates as traditional PR? Is, say, creating a press kit on the level of setting up a blog?

With large agencies, the answer is usually yes. PR bills as PR, whether it’s a primer on Twitter or a media training session for a sit-down on the evening news.

What’s been unclear is how many of the small shops and independent consultants that are quietly dominating a good portion of the SM business in PR have been charging their clients.

Chris Heuer, a founder of the Social Media Club and a seasoned tech marketing consultant, has taken the unusual step of posting online the rates for his latest venture, AdHocnium, which he describes as an “ad-hoc agency” of a handful of consultants like Silicon Valley Watcher blogger Tom Foremski and veteran tech PR pro Brian Solis.

A half-day introduction to social media for key management and an analysis of a client’s prior efforts runs $1,500 per consultant (Heuer calls them “catalysts”) involved. If things get more creative and brainstorming comes into play, the rate bumps up to $2K per, and if a full-day is needed, that’ll cost $3K per consultant involved.

That’s about $375/hour for SM consulting, a healthy sum, although hourly on-site rates are listed slightly lower at $350/hour.
At a large agency, that would translate to counsel at the senior level -- general manager, managing director or even higher.

ReadWriteWeb did an analysis in October that found a slightly lower figure – about $300 -- to be the ballpark for SM consulting; that’s still a healthy sum that surprised us considering PR executives at, say, the director level bill under $200/hour.

Digital communications and social media continue to march toward the mainstream in PR. Their rates seem to have already arrived.