For small businesses, the decision about whether to do all PR in-house or use an agency often comes down to cost. It is cheaper to do it in-house, but there is a lot of effort needed that may be better spent achieving other goals. For large firms, it is usual for some PR to be in-house and other elements to be outsourced. Finding the perfect mix depends on resources and business strategies. For some types of messaging such as on social media, the need to respond immediately means that it may be most sensibly done in house. Although agencies counter with the argument that digital media needs a certain expertise, that they are able to offer.
Social media is an “instant” form of communication, but it is also a platform that needs long-term commitment. It takes time to grow a network of followers and keep them engaged. That’s why some businesses do all their own social media. At Santander bank, some social media is kept in-house and other elements are outsourced. Andy Smith, head of retail communications and media relations, explains: “We outsource ‘delivery’ type activity, but do all the strategy elements ourselves. Twitter and social media is in-house in terms of strategy and responses, but outsourced in terms of monitoring.” Generally, Smith believes it is wise to keep PR strategy in house, but outsource monitoring and evaluation in order to achieve “impartiality”.
Discussing finding the right balance between using in-house and agency PR expertise when working across the world, Philippe Arnaud, group director, sales and marketing, of medical and security specialists International SOS, says that his sales and marketing team follows a “client and market first” global strategy. He explains: “As part of this strategy, PR is fully integrated with our marketing mix at the group. We deliver our PR between talented in-house all-round communicators and specialist PR agencies in our key markets.“
International SOS’s PR needs to support 1,200 medical and security experts, who are spread around the world in over 75 countries, particularly in emerging markets, which is no easy task. PR strategies need to be flexible. Arnaud says: “Within each of the countries we service, our clients’ needs differ and our level of scale varies, so our PR programmes naturally need to adapt to those. The joint PR teams [in-house and agency] work alongside marketing and sales to ensure a global consistency.”
Five reasons to outsource you PR
Lorraine Emmett, founder of PR agency Emmett & Smith, gives (unashamedly partisan) reasons why PR agency help is invaluable:
1. You have access to a wide range of expertise. An agency offers a larger range of PR skills, for example, you can get strategic PR counsel from senior staff whenever required rather than having to employ a board-level communications director.
2. You save time. Whatever the level of PR task, from admin to strategy, outsourcing frees your people to do what they do best.
3. Human resources are easier. There are no recruitment headaches and you can access a constant PR resource which isn't influenced by such issues as holidays and sick leave.
4. Creative and writing skills are on tap. The media is always hungry for new content, and it may be expecting too much to ask the same people to constantly generate new ideas. By using agencies there is a wider range of talent to call upon.
5.You have access to an outside perspective. An external partner is once removed from the problem and can provide objectivity and focus which can be impossible when you're experiencing the challenge and viewing it from a proximity which can be claustrophobic.
Written by Daney Parker
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