Public relations is an integral part of a company’s marketing strategy, but how to get the best deal remains an age-old question. PR budgets are finite and organisations, even large ones, have become a lot more cost conscious. Making changes to your PR program can disrupt and negatively impact your external communications, so many businesses stick with their choices for considerable time. Whether you’re seeking to invest in PR for the first time, your campaigns have fizzled out or you need immediate change, here’s what to consider:
Just like in the advertising industry, the agency model has been the most successful form of service delivery for many decades. Priced by projects or fixed retainers, your PR spend essentially buys you manhours of a team of skilled consultants servicing your account.
Pros: The account servicing structure of senior, mid-level and junior consultants means agencies invest in the skills and training of younger PR workers and can allocate these HR resources according to budget and tasks.
Cons: Agencies have large overheads for managers you never see and often hidden fees. You’re not only paying for their time, but for the phone bill and newspaper subscription too.
Freelancers are mid- to senior level consultants who have worked in agencies as well as inhouse and offer their services independently. Many work occasionally as contractors as well, or operate their own business with a small but regular client roster.
Pros: A freelancer can be the right choice if you’re looking for someone who is highly specialised and well connected, without the agency overhead.
Cons: Hiring one person means when that person is busy / sick / on holidays, there is no-one else is to action your request. There is also no option of delegating simple tasks like press release distribution to a junior person with a lower hourly rate.
Previously only the domain of large enterprises, there is a trend to bring the PR function inhouse. An internal PR manager looks after media relations, content creation, the company website and other forms of external communications, sometimes reporting to marketing, sometimes directly to management.
Pros: Being internal means access to executives and knowledge that external PR providers often lack. An inhouse manager essentially spends the day servicing only one client, which brings a lot of focus to the role.
Cons: Not every company can afford a full time PR headcount. And journalists have an ambiguous relationship with inhouse PR; on the one hand they appreciate the insider view and immediate access, on the other hand it’s sometimes easier to have a candid discussion with an external person.