It is perhaps one of the most common questions we are asked. Should I go the in-house route or use a consultancy? It’s pretty obvious why you might go the DIY route. Hiring your very own 100% committed member of staff seems a no-brainer. It seems cheaper and it’s easier to monitor what someone is doing when they are based in your company, and there are no confidentiality issues to worry about. The person will also be on tap, there at a moment’s notice. So why might you give up such economy and control, and use an agency? Here’s why…
Experience & Creativity
With a PR agency you have the opportunity to draw on the thinking, and inspiration of a number of people not just one. In a good agency, these people will be at the peak of their PR game, many of them far more experienced than the person you can afford to employ in-house.
An agency, because they are handling a mix of companies, will come across a broader range of new ideas, opportunities and media. This isn’t a criticism of your in-house person, they will just not be exposed to such a mixture if they are purely focused, day-in-day-out, on your business.
Able to Advise
The senior team in a company is much more likely to take the advice of an agency because they are paying for it. They are more likely to share their vision and business plan with the PR agency, ensuring the PR campaign is closely aligned to the company’s commercial trajectory. An in-house person, because they are within the hierarchical structure of their company, will often sadly not command the same respect, or receive the same candour from or access to the company’s directors.
If a company isn’t careful, the in-house person can be seen as a ‘spare pair of hands’ and become overloaded with ‘other’ non-PR tasks. This massively dilutes the focus and pace of the PR campaign. Whereas with an agency there will be no such diversions.
In our time we’ve introduced clients to potential business partners, investors, distributors, customers and so forth. This is because we are able to be ‘out there’ mixing with all sorts of people from different areas of business. That’s what good agencies can do – and it’s a brilliant tool for clients to harness.
A swift glance a PR job sites such as The Guardian, PR Week and Marketing Week will tell you that a good in house PR person isn’t cheap. That’s before you add to their salary national insurance, pension and other perks. Plus if you are going the in-house route you will also need to buy in resources for them to use such as media monitoring services from companies such as Cision, plus media database tools like Gorkana. Suddenly the cost of a PR agency doesn’t seem such a big part of the equation.
Of course, we are not discounting the internal PR route all together. There are plenty of great PR people working in companies, and we are by no means diminishing what they do. They are a tremendous asset. Indeed no agency can work in isolation; to be working at its peak a PR agency needs to be interacting with a person within the client company who ‘gets’ PR. As Catherine Bayles, Head of Media Relations at Eurostar recently argued in this article the agency works at its best when it’s in partnership with the client. Equally there are plenty of terrible PR agencies that don’t deliver and that don’t deserve your attention.
However, to simply view the PR Agency vs in-house debate as a matter of budget is to not understand the potential of a really great agency.