When scaling a business and looking externally for added communications support, a common question often rings through the c-suite: Do we hire a small or large public relations agency?
Choosing the right agency seems daunting. You’ll be handing off your company’s communications strategy, media outreach efforts, and sometimes more (analyst relations outreach, awards and speaking programs, social media engagement) to a team of people who will become an extension of your company. The decision then comes down to how far you want that arm to reach.
Consider these five components of PR agencies and how they relate to your business goals.
Communication is the most valuable part of any partnership, and a disconnect in expectations will sour just about any relationship. With a smaller PR agency, you can expect consistency between the team you signed to work with and the team that is actually assigned to your account. Because the same people typically sign and manage accounts at smaller agencies, there is a greater historic knowledge and contextual understanding of your unique challenges and goals. Smaller agency team leads and supporting teams often have more dedicated hours and bandwidth to support accounts, leading to white-glove treatment for every client regardless of size.
Large PR agencies, on the other hand, may be less communicative, and more senior executives are likely to be less available for ad hoc strategizing and collaboration. After your initial kickoff call, your account is handed over to junior staff members who work on the day-to-day projects. Account managers likely have less insight into the nuances of your business. They’ll get the information back to you diligently but without the same speed as a small agency. Companies looking for a hands-off approach can benefit most from this structured model of communication.
Approach to Service
PR professionals working at small agencies wear many hats; they have breadth and depth in their expertise and work on many aspects of an account. The CEO is often the same person running the agency and pitching your next Tier 1 press opportunity. Small agencies have their hands full, but that doesn’t mean they’re not prioritizing your specific needs. Because their active list of clients is significantly smaller than their large agency counterparts, they’re dedicated to each one and work tirelessly to ensure your business is served the best value.
On the other hand, larger agencies are full of specialists tasked with doing their craft all day, every day. A full team will be assigned to your account, and each member will work on a different component. While this specialized approach is certainly valuable, these specialists will likely spend less time on your account each day because of the array of other clients to whom they must allocate time.
Small agencies may be more likely to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. However, being resourceful isn’t always a limitation. A less rigid structure gives small agencies and their clients more room for creative plans and outcomes, especially when original ideas don’t always go to plan. Because of how they’re managed, small agencies can quickly pivot and provide an extra layer of added value to their accounts.
A nimble strategy can be unnerving to many businesses looking for a more rigid approach. Large agencies are procedural and have a specific way of working with their clients. If your company has the budget, these agencies can make even the craziest of ideas a reality, but any opportunities not covered by your current contract’s scope of work will likely require additional resources or professional support. Such projects will likely take up your internal marketing team’s bandwidth to get the job done.
Media coverage is one of the top priorities when working with PR agencies, and different-sized agencies have varying levels of reach. Small agencies tend to do best in niche environments and can get clients in front of the perfect audience. But don’t knock their ability to land Tier 1 media placements in a world of increased social connectivity.
Large agencies are, well, large. Their teams include people from all over the world with immensely different backgrounds and often have multiple intercontinental offices. So if your business has an international presence, it can be valuable to explore agencies with diverse regional connections.
Finally, and most importantly to business, is the variation in price offered by small and large agencies. Small agencies generally offer contracts that help a seed-stage company get its foot in the door but also provide full-scale services to already established companies. They have the capacity to scale alongside your business and offer services that lead to long-lasting partnerships: something you can’t put a price tag on.
Large agencies don’t offer that financial cushion. They’re expensive and may have you looking at your internal marketing team, wondering if they can do the same work for cheaper. But what you don’t see listed on the receipt is the agency’s vast array of departments that require funding and support. Large agencies have larger teams, and larger teams mean more people need to be paid.
Every company has individual needs, and it’s essential to identify those needs and how they fit within these five aspects when deciding to partner with a small or large PR agency. Look internally at how your business is managed and what type of support is needed for growth when determining what size agency is best for your company.