What’s the first thing you did when outsourcing your PR? Did you Google “PR agencies”? Perhaps you visited a couple of slick websites, looked up their credentials, felt impressed by the big-name clients, then shortlisted a few based on first impressions? Then, seduced by sleek offices and sharp-suited PR directors, you reached for your checkbook, reassured by the aroma of expensive Italian coffee and leather boardroom chairs. Because PR is expensive right? Having worked for top agencies for many years before moving in-house, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. That’s why I believe many small to mid-size companies are hiring above and beyond their requirements. PR is a reputation-based industry like no other. You can’t beat a clever, slick website and swank offices to get new clients excited. But herein lies the point: We are the masters of spin. So business owners and entrepreneurs are often lulled into a false sense of security, ending up with a limited PR service that costs them dearly. Here’s why: 1. The obvious: cash flow. Why pay through the nose for all that plush agency overhead? Hand-engraved business cards do not column inches make, nor is a posh ZIP code a journalist’s friend. If PR for you means being wined and dined, then by all means, go for it. If, however, you run a tight ship, downsizing to a one-man band or boutique agency will get you more bang for your buck. Plus, you can afford a hell of a lot more of that bang while you’re at it. More time equals better results. Which leads me to my next point—quality versus quantity: Why choose? 2. The honeymoon period. Are you suffering from an itchy case of “pitch and switch”? A common affliction: A client is charmed by senior management, only to find itself relegated later to a separate team (often with vastly different experience). Suddenly you’re no longer the best thing since sliced bread, and you’re paying high-end fees for a box-fresh college graduate to handle your account. Independent PR pros are often seasoned professionals doing 100 percent of the legwork, from developing the idea to grabbing the headline—seamless implementation delivered with real-world aplomb. 3. Blood, sweat, and tears. Freelancers are only as good as their last project. Media relations is their meal ticket. As they are 100 percent accountable for every outcome, there is nowhere to hide. Most will fight tooth, nail, and bone to get your name where it counts, and without a 9-to-5 mentality, they’re always looking for new opportunities to get an edge over the competition. The PR world is fickle. Reputation is everything. 4. Lightning-fast reaction times Death by committee. Groupthink. Treacle like hierarchical decision-making. These and other things are reasons why a smaller PR resource can outperform a bigger one. PR is opportunistic. It’s about keeping your eyes, ears, and nose to the ground, spotting opportunities and jumping on them to maximize the chances of positive exposure for your brand. Freelancers have an always-on mentality. You’ll get lightning reactions and, yes, we’ll probably answer the phone at midnight. 5. Make a friend The plethora of small PR companies means you have more choice than ever to find someone who matches not only your company’s objectives but also your personal ones. Trust and good relationships are crucial, so here is your opportunity to find someone you enjoy working with. The more positive the relationship, the more motivated the team and the more fruitful the collaboration—ergo, the better for your business. This is obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Next time you’re reviewing your PR, ask yourself whether you enjoy working with your agency. Did you inherit the relationship, or did it come as part of a package? Is the agency delivering on its promises and offering value for money?
Go wild: Support independents, and find out why cutting back your PR could enhance your business. Tam Henderson is an independent PR and copywriting professional who unsurprisingly believes freelance PR is the right road for many businesses. Chat with her @gathercreative or connect via LinkedIn. (Image via)