By Brian Dolby, Proactive PR

Public Relations has a growing role as SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) fight for profile and awareness — whatever their market sector. As PR is arguably the most cost effective part of the marketing mix, the only choice for many is whether to go in-house or to appoint an external consultancy when making their selection.

There is a lot to consider. Let’s start with the pros and cons.

In-house pros:

• PR person is totally dedicated to one organisation

• Better insight into the company and its products/offering

• Confidentiality can be more easily maintained

• Person can become the company spokesperson — known to the media

In-house cons:

• Headcount means cost and commitment

• Seniority/experience/skills is always an issue

• Person may become too insular and not develop a wider view of the market

• No opportunity for a wider input based on other experiences

PR consultancy pros:

• Wide choice of professionals with relevant experience

• Consultancy choice can fit company need (i.e. international requirements, technology expertise)

• Access to a wider range of contacts

• Flexible resource to cope with peaks of activity

PR consultancy cons:

• Consultancy staff need to handle several clients at the same time

• Budgetary management essential

• As an external resource, they need regular briefings

• Account team more susceptible to change

So, looking at the in-house route, having your own PR professional means that you are hiring your very own, 100% committed, member of staff. It may seem obvious to go for this option, I mean, why appoint an outsider when you don’t need to. But it’s not quite that simple.

For a start how much experience do you want and how much do you want to pay? For a person who knows the industry and knows some of the media you can expect to pay upwards of £25,000. This means with national insurance, pension, benefits and expenses on top you are looking at roughly double the outlay - £50,000 per year in round terms. And that is without in-house support, technical backup and external support costs such as distribution and clippings agencies.

For that kind of money you can buy the services of a consultancy with a proven track record — possibly over 12-month period.

It’s a tough decision. My overall recommendation is this. If you are prepared to take time and mould a person over two to three years, then in-house might be worth considering. But if you want experience and results from day one, then do your research, prepare a brief for two/three rival consultancies and get ready to judge a very important beauty parade!


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