Why an external communications consultancy can be more valuable than an in-house Manager  

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It is a conundrum that many SMEs face.  You have plans for growth, a great new product in the pipeline, or some new contract wins.  You want to share these exciting new developments, but find it hard to justify spending on an external PR agency, as that seems a bit excessive.  So the more sensible option is to employ somebody in-house to do the PR for you.  After all, it makes sense to pay someone to work for you for the whole year, rather than just have an agency providing services for a few days every month.  Or, you could have a go at it yourself.  After all, how hard could writing a press release be?

However, choosing the DIY route or employing an in-house PR officer/manager may prove more costly, and provide less return in the long run, and here’s why:

A consultancy employs senior level experts so you don’t have to – a good PR consultancy will have senior-level consultants who have spent years working in the industry. This invaluable knowledge and expertise would come with a high salary if employed full-time.  With a consultancy, you’re only using them as and when needed.  Which goes on to the next point…

Many SME’s don’t need a full-time PR person – Only the larger corporate organisations, such as BUPA, Coca-Cola and Unilever employ in-house PR staff.  This is because their organisations have enough activity, spread and breadth to warrant full-time consultancy.  Even then, they outsource campaigns and business areas to PR consultancies. If you’re an SME, it’s most likely that your organisation will want someone to provide consistent and results-driven activity throughout the year, but you’re unlikely to need someone to work for you for every working day of the year.  That’s where a consultancy is the perfect solution.

A consultancy has access to contacts and tools that you won’t have in-house – As a PR consultancy lives and breathes communications, they will spend much of their time cultivating relationships with the relevant media and stakeholders. These relationships are built over time – sometimes years – but as their client, you will benefit from them straight away. Good consultancies also employ specialist tools for building media databases and sharing stories.  This would be a costly outlay for an SME, but if you use a consultant, it’s all part of the service.

You’ll get more bang for your buck with a consultancy – the traditional PR model is priced with a day rate or monthly fee, though sometimes work can be billed on a project basis.  Whatever the package, with a consultancy, it really is payment by results. A consultancy must be able to prove their value on each day, and deliver tangible results.  A down day is not an option.  And as the client, that means that you are getting valuable consultancy, whether that be through media relations, press releases, social media activity or copywriting.  Put simply, you get what you paid for, and then some.

You’re not tied into an employment contract with a consultancy – by retaining the services of a PR consultancy, you’re gaining an extension of your in-house team, minus the administration that comes with employing somebody in-house.  This means that you don’t have to worry about annual leave, salary, pensions or sickness.  It’s also easier to part ways with a consultancy if things don’t work out.

A consultancy offers a breadth of experience in different areas – HK Communications boasts both in-house and consultancy experience, and it can certainly be said that the potential for learning and perfecting PR in-house is limited.  This is because an in-house PR manager is often the most senior PR person in the organisation, doesn’t have peers to bounce ideas from and is exposed to the work of just one client (the organisation itself).  Consultants who work in agencies often manage a variety of clients, so have exposure to the more ideas and the latest trends and innovations in different industries.  Consultants also have to stay abreast of the latest PR developments, such as the growing importance of social media.

These are just some of the reasons why a PR consultancy often adds greater value to an SME, but what are your thoughts?  Do you agree, and what are the advantages of an in-house PR person.      

Halima Khatun

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