By Robbie Cumming, PR Account Manager, Hornby Whitefoot PR
Public relations agencies provide a professional service for a selection of customers. Each of their customers, or clients, trade within the same industry, but in different product categories, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest. Each client usually has a PR Director and Manager allocated to each account.
But why do these customers or companies use PR agencies – why don’t they just do it themselves?
Whether invoiced monthly, based on an annual plan (as the majority of our clients are), kept on a yearly retainer fee, or charged as and when any work is carried out – hiring an agency is often used as a cost saving exercise. You will always pay more per hour for an agency, but because you aren’t employing full-time, you can afford top level expertise, when you need it, at a fraction of the cost.
Signing up to press enquiry lists, media monitoring and licences to handle clippings are essential if you want to effect any PR campaign. Hearing about exclusive opportunities before anyone else is key to gaining free editorial coverage, and finding out whenever your company is mentioned in print allows you to accurately measure your efforts. Although these specialist third party services are essential for any effective PR campaign, they can costs thousands of pounds each year. With a PR agency, any company can get access to the same services, included for free within their PR budget.
Media lists are built over many years. Building the kind of relationship with editors within the industry you operate in takes time and patience. Companies that employ agencies are instantly plugged into a receptive network of editors, bloggers, experts, TV and Radio producers that would take years, and therefore thousands of pounds to build up.
A fresh pair of eyes is always useful, and having that come from just the right distance from your organisation allows you to be introspective, yet still keep the utmost confidentiality. PR firms are often linked to other agencies, freelancers and experts working in marketing, design and social media that can be called upon to provide the best possible advice going forward – and it’s one of the things that businesses most benefit from.
Trade specific expertise
Not only would you employ a PR agency for their expertise in public relations, but you could also benefit from their knowledge of your industry. When looking for an agency to represent you, their understanding of the trade, links to membership organisations, exhibitions and events should always form the basis of your selection criteria.
It is a myth that employing a PR agency will give you less work to do – it’s a commitment and an investment in your marketing. Having said that, during extremely busy times, for example during a trade show – your PR team can actually reduce your workload, by taking care of a great deal of promotional activity while you’re free to focus on sales.
An extension of your marketing department
Having been a PR and Marketing Manager myself, I know all too well how precious those eight hours of each day can be. Designing new catalogues, signing off on new packaging before it gets printed, meetings, dealing with changes to the website and social media – it can all require urgent attention and scupper any carefully thought out PR plans. Vice versa, when a company is under pressure in an emergency situation that requires crisis PR, all other activity falls by the wayside. PR agencies can benefit and add value to existing marketing activity and save you from neglecting it when pushed the other way.
If you have any questions for Robbie regarding this article or on any other aspect of public relations, email firstname.lastname@example.org