When a business decides it needs a PR agency, there are a lot of factors to consider.
Do you go with one of the large firms that everybody’s heard of? Or do you go with a smaller, nimble boutique operation that understands your market? As someone who has worked with clients at PR agencies large and small, here are a few reasons that a smaller agency is a smarter investment for your organization.
More Bang for Your Buck
A large agency can bring in many valuable services, but it tends to come with a higher cost. Larger agencies by their nature have greater overhead expenditures: they have more administrative staff, more real estate, and more infrastructure that serves the firm.
This overhead has to be paid for in one way or another, and typically that’s in the form of higher billing rates. Smaller agencies have the advantage because they’re more nimble: they provide the same core PR services, but don’t have all the overhead built into their billing rates. For that reason, clients are able to get what’s most valuable, from media exposure to industry event opportunities to social media content development, for less cost per result.
Subject Matter Expertise You Can Trust
Large agencies typically represent a wide range of clients, in industries ranging from retail to energy to technology and beyond. In those agencies, there are often “practices” made up of teams that are focused on clients in a certain industry. But those teams can experience high turnover, and team members will often split their time across practices. These teams don’t have the luxury to learn all the ins and outs of an industry, or of their clients. For that reason, the subject matter expertise at a large agency can be “a mile wide, and an inch deep.” It’s rarer to find true industry gurus at a large PR firm.
Smaller agencies live and breathe the subject of the clients they represent. Smaller agencies go to the most important events, read the most influential news sources, and speak to the most respected experts of an industry to glean the most important insights. The time and effort to get to know an industry as well as a client pays off – smaller agencies are better equipped to secure those top media results or event opportunities.
A large account team at a large agency might have more than a dozen team members working for a single client. Those team members bring a variety of important skills, but at the mid and junior levels, those individuals don’t get a chance to interact with and share their work directly with the client. Clients will sometimes meet with the leadership of a large client team – perhaps a senior vice president or account manager – but are not given an opportunity to become true partners with all of the team members who work for them on a daily basis.
There are no wallflowers at a small agency. From an employee’s perspective, it’s beneficial to work at a smaller agency because you’re exposed to clients and leadership opportunities at an earlier point. But it’s also a benefit to the client. By knowing and interacting with the various members of a team, you can build professional relationships that motivate those who work with you. It’s also easier to demand quality and accountability from a client team when you interact with all the team members.
Have some tips of your own? Let us know!
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RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.