In my industry, big brands and large organizations looking to hire public relations (PR) agencies will often select a large PR company. One of the main reasons these companies do this is because it’s safe. The thinking is that if the agency is as big as it is, then it must be doing something right.
But before hiring a PR firm with offices around the world and with scores of people working at each location, consider the following:
Costs: At large PR firms with satellite locations, office space, and employees cost a lot of money. When a company hires a large PR firm, as much as one-half or more of what you pay the PR agency goes to overhead, not to the people working on your company’s behalf.
Teams: Team and multi-staff collaboration is the way many big brands operate today; well, so do large PR agencies. The problem is that combining these teams often ends up with many people talking at each other, with little getting done. This means collaboration can be complex.
Cultures: Related to the “team” issue is company culture. If the client has half a dozen people on its team and the PR agency has half a dozen people on its team, guess what happens? Both companies have diverse cultures that may not mesh all that well. This makes it harder to get things done and often results in an unhappy customer. With a smaller marketing PR firm with just a few people, blending into a large client’s company culture is typically not a problem.
Specialists: One reason those big PR firms get so big is that they are involved with a variety of different industries—from restaurants and healthcare to high-tech and travel. While they may have people who know specific sectors, the same people promoting healthcare, for instance, may also be on the team focusing on travel PR. No one specializes in any one industry. It’s always best to work with marketing content creators that are specialists. A small communications company that focuses on just a couple of industries is invariably a specialist in those industries.
Faster: As referenced earlier, smaller firms tend to get things done more quickly. Instead of having a couple of dozen clients, a smaller firm may have only a few. When a smaller PR agency works on your projects, your company becomes its only focus.
Go deeper: Because large firms will likely have many projects on the burner, it can be difficult for them to go behind the scenes and learn about a client’s products and services. I know of one small PR firm whose client was a vacuum cleaner manufacturer. To understand the machines from the inside out, the PR firm’s owner worked on the assembly line for a couple of days, seeing how the machines were put together, what each component played, quality control procedures, and even how the machines were packaged. And he did this on his own time. It’s unlikely a large PR firm would do this—unless the client was paying amply for the visit.
Big Brands Need Small PR Risk Takers
We should add one more benefit for big brands that select small PR firms: a smaller PR firm is typically more of a risk-taker. Just the fact that they are on their own indicates they are risk-takers.
They are often more likely to work with a start-up company, getting incredibly involved with their products and services. Many times, large companies are afraid to take such risks. It’s just not “safe,” and if things don’t work out, heads will roll.
Further, because they are already risk-takers, smaller PR firms often produce new, innovative, and possibly unusual ideas and strategies that big agencies would be hesitant to try.
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