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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a relationship. Good chemistry between you and your team is therefore vital.
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.
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.”
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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