For about 3 years, the PRCA has aimed to represent the whole PR industry, so the promotion of PR agencies is no longer its primary focus. Additionally it's now not an organisation for PR agencies to join, but is also recruiting in-house departments and individual members. Whilst neither of these are wrong - there is no reason why the organisation should not take this direction - this change of strategy is has, perhaps inadvertently, meant that the value of the organisation to my agency has fallen dramatically. The main reasons are:
£3700 for Napier to join, £720 if I pay for all the individuals in the company involved in PR to join. A huge difference. Paying around £600 per person is excessive when the membership benefits for being an agency member are limited.
The largest agencies pay less than 1/10th the cost per person that agencies like Napier pay, so the comparison with individual membership isn't a problem for them.
Joining as an agency gives few benefits over inidividual membership. The PRCA spends a lot of time promoting their find a PR agency (FAPRA) service - I'll talk more about this later. There are some benefits around group membership and holding positions on groups, the PRCA council, etc. although as vice-chair of the B2B group I know that these positions require the individual to put in time to organise events for the PRCA.
The FAPRA service is a commercial service charging commercial rates. If you win business through the service, there's a 5% charge, so why is this a benefit when I could go to other business finder organisations offering similar deals?
The big problem with FAPRA is the poor quality of the leads. I know Heather will talk about the disappointing overall conversion rate and level of business generated, so I'd just like to support her comments, and emphasise that the reality is a large proportion of the leads never result in any business for any PRCA member. Additionally the "shortlists" tend to be very long when you get a FAPRA lead: the smallest number of agencies on the list that a potential client can select is "up to 6". With the pressures on FAPRA to be seen to be delivering leads, my experience is that this means that usually there are five or more agencies pitching. The PRCA's own recommendations are to ask for creds for a maximum of eight agencies, and have just three pitch. Whilst I agree FAPRA is not forcing clients to have long pitch lists, it's also not encouraging best practice.
So do I hate the PRCA? Absolutely not! The PRCA is a great organisation, and the PR industry would be much poorer if it didn't exist. I'd prefer an industry with one strong voice, rather than have the PRCA and CIPR politely and professionally dance around, avoiding the inevitable direct confrontation for as long as possible. But both do great work.
The problem is that PRCA membership for SME agencies is really poor value when compared to individual membership: SME agencies are paying an unsustainable and unjustified premium. The economy is tough, and SME agencies have to consider their bottom lines, even for an organisation like the PRCA that does lots of good work.
Although I can't justify continuing to pay agency membership fees based on the current pricing structure, I would have no hesitation in paying for individual memberships for the whole Napier PR team.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by b2b pr specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketing, B2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say. Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact her via email on [email protected].
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