The Double-Sided Coin of Going In-House for PR
I can probably guess what you are thinking when you read this blog title – an agency person is going to exhaustively list why it’s not a good idea to take my public relations activities in house. But that guess would be wrong.
Here’s the thing, I’ve been on both sides of the table. I’ve been the person at a company hiring and firing agencies to help us meet our goals. I’ve been the in-house person trying to raise our company profile as a one-woman show. Now I am that agency person who sits across from clients helping them strategize their PR plans. So maybe I’ve been on three sides of that table because the other option is no PR at all and that’s not a world I live in.
For many companies this is the time of year when they start looking at current budgets and start planning for the next fiscal year. When it comes to trimming line items, marketing and PR budgets are often under a microscope and I’ve been in those shoes too defending each line item and I won’t mince words – it sucks.
If your team is being pressed to consider bringing all PR activities in house, or if your company is just starting PR activities and it seems like a better idea to start with one jack-of-all-trades position, keep reading. There are some conversations you should have internally and some angles you should consider before deciding one way or another if you should bring PR in house.
It’s not a 1:1 Equation
If you’re considering going the in-house route for PR it’s important to know hiring a person to handle PR over an agency team is not a 1:1 ratio. What do I mean by that? In short, a single hire can’t replace an external agency team.
When you work with an agency you have a team with a mix of experience levels and the ability to work on different pieces simultaneously to drive deliverables in a timely manner. You also benefit from all of the cross functional work that happens across the agency, from tracking editorial calendars and speaking opportunities, to keeping an eye on trends and news headlines that will impact your business.
When I was internal, my PR time was split across a lot of different disciplines that fell within both the marketing and PR wheelhouse, a little messaging work, a little email marketing, a little social media, and a little PR. That approach is really common from what I have seen from a corporate perspective and it makes sense to take advantage of the natural crossover. Bear in mind that if you’re expecting a person or a team to deliver the same results you would get from an agency – make sure they are allotted the resources to work toward that goal. Hint: it is no small measure.
Budget Time or Budget Dollars
If your team is not prepared to budget dollars for an external agency to support PR then you must be prepared to budget time.
Consistency is core to the success of any PR campaign, so if your in-house team or person is not allotted the time they need to research, pitch, chase deadlines, write, follow up, and track the company coverage you may find yourself disappointed in the output. As someone who juggled a mix of responsibilities in house, I can say it’s easiest for PR to fall between the cracks. It’s not as simple as getting a press person to answer your email – there is a boatload of research and fine tuning that happens before a single pitch reaches a journalists’ inbox or a press release makes it up on a website.
It also takes time to establish those relationships with the media. I once had a boss who said we were hiring an agency for their relationships with the press that we don’t have. While that’s certainly not the only reason to hire an agency it is a clear advantage. Working at an agency I now talk with media contacts daily, when I was in-house I was lucky if I had time to do outreach once a quarter. Did I still land tier 1 stories when I was in house? Yes, but it was no coincidence that I landed those opportunities in those periods of time that I was given the space to really prioritize PR among all my other responsibilities.
Consider and Calibrate Accordingly
As with any planning process, consider your goals for the coming year, where PR sits in the mix, and calibrate your next steps accordingly. I know that having an agency does not always make sense depending on your company goals and budgets. Maybe you’re not ready for PR and that’s okay! Maybe you want to dip your toes into this PR pool before deciding the next steps – you can check out these tips on where to start, especially on a shoestring budget. If you’re ready to start talking about what it would look like to work with an agency, drop us a line.