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Here's what I know about PR agencies

Posted: 2012-10-19 in Opinion    |   Tagged: pr agencies, robert corbishley, working with pr agencies, xerox


The client’s take on working with PR consultancies. By @RobCorbXerox

In my more than ten years of working with PR agencies, here’s what I’ve learnt:

  1. Size doesn’t matter. Good agencies can be big or small, national or multinational. Some of the best PR professionals I have worked with have been one-man bands.
  2. Taxi or chauffeur? You need to decide if you want to retain an agency and have someone at your daily beck and call, or if you’re happy to work on a project basis. Retainers work well for larger organisations with regular PR activity and needs. Project work focuses the mind and can work well for smaller companies and those with a specific PR need.
  3. It’s the people, stupid. An agency’s only real asset is its people. Don’t get wooed by flashy offices and presentations. You want real substance from the best people that are really interested in your business.
  4. I said, it’s the people, stu... No matter what they tell you about their low attrition rates, your agency team will have a fast turnover. What’s important therefore is that the agency replaces your team members with good people, professionally and quickly.
  5. They’re part of your team. Just because they’re in some central London luvvy location doesn’t mean that your agency isn’t part of your team. You therefore need to manage (motivate) them like any other employee.
  6. It’s a relationship. Good chemistry between you and your team is therefore vital.
  7. You want advisors not lackies. You’re paying for their help, so they’d better make you listen to them. You can always ignore their advice, but the best agencies aren’t lackies.
  8. Some agencies are stuck in the 1990s, or even 1980s. We all still love traditional print coverage, but as Nowicka states, “The focus is frequently on high impact media relations which can deliver ‘here today’ visibility that is all too often ‘gone tomorrow’. Combining traditional and digital can extend and amplify a piece of communication beyond the quick hit of media coverage to build a deeper, and potentially ongoing, connection.”
  9. The future of PR agencies is not certain. The recession has focussed organisations’ attention on costs like no other time in my career. What, in an age when it is possible to easily and effectively communicate with the media yourself or even directly with your audience without the need for media, is, therefore, the real value of a PR agency? Be prepared for them to morph into “influencer relations” agencies that are more easily able to demonstrate their value to their clients.

Robert Corbishley MCIPR is Xerox Europe PR manager with responsibility for Xerox’s channels and graphic communications businesses, as well as corporate PR.

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Does this post make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Or are you fuming? Either way, let us know by posting your comment below. This week, our favourite comment wins its author a £20 Amazon voucher.


James Cooper

Mon 19th November, 2012

This article has picked-up on some good points - whatever the 'fluff' or processes that an agency claims to have, it is it's people and culture that will win the day for their clients. Many agencies (especially the larger ones) have a shamefully high churn rate of employees which can really disrupt the continuity of a client's team and the results that they can get. But equally, as the article also points out, clients need to treat an agency as part of the team and not just the hired help, that way the agency can be more strategic and bring more value and results to the relationship.

Simon Burton

Mon 26th November, 2012

totally agree with James, far too many agencies have staff who focus on KPI's rather than actual client goals

Pete Hendrick

Fri 30th November, 2012

From an agency perspective, point 6 (relationships) is spot-on and is applied all to infrequently.

A great client is like the great teacher when you were at school - encouraging, collaborative, empathetic and positive. The more that in-house comms managers treat agencies like suppliers (all stick, no carrot), the less value they ultimately get.

Chris Klopper

Fri 21st December, 2012

All the points that Robert makes are valid and in particular I wish more clients would heed the advice of his point 6. After all it is in a client's own self-interest as we all know how much harder a motivated agency team that likes and respects the client will work on that campaign and how the results will grow exponentially.

Ben Dodson

Thu 5th September, 2013

Rob hits plenty of nails on the head with this one! In finding the right agency for you, you should look for a 'partner' that's in tune with your business, and ultimately, focused on results - but the right results! Whether small, medium or large, at the end of the day, good PR agencies deliver campaigns that positively impact your business/sales. And they should be good at proving this too! If your PR reports lack substance, please look a little deeper and ensure that you're receiving value for money, because if you're not, no matter what size of client or budget you represent, there are plenty of excellent small to medium sized agencies out there with the skills and expertise to make a BIG impact on your business.


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