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.
• 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
• 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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