On the premiere episode of the final season of “Mad Men,” the ever-resourceful Joan tries to salvage the Butler Shoe account when she learns a new marketing head is bent on taking the advertising in-house, for reasons having more to do with his own ego than real business needs.
Realizing she’s in over her head, Joan meets with a university professor for a crash course on marketing and comes away with some effective arguments that help forestall the move.
Wouldn’t it be great for life to imitate art when a company is weighing that same decision – for less-than-sound reasons – with a PR account? To save you the time of meeting with a professor, here are five reasons why (sometimes) clients shouldn’t ditch their PR agency to go in-house.
PR agencies usually have the media relationships. Building trusting relationships with journalists takes time and effort and no one person can “own” all the beats. In an agency, many of the PR pros already have longstanding relationships are constantly building new ones. This doesn’t mean 100% guaranteed coverage, but it does cut through a lot of media red tape to get quicker responses and more meaningful feedback.
The PR firm can change as your account does. Agencies can allocate and re-allocate resources with the account requirements. Depending on the size of the campaign, there may be lots of legwork required. That means more staff and greater overhead. But when you hire an agency, they already have, or can muster, the manpower to carry out all the necessary tasks. Additionally, if a client has an insurmountable issue with an in-house hire, it could mean termination and starting over. In a good agency partnership, a personality conflict can be managed by changing the staff rotation.
A PR team is (relatively) objective. In a large, bureaucratic organization, it’s easy to get caught up in the corporate convention of doing things a given way because that’s how it’s always been done. Even in a smaller company, like a technology start-up, you can suffer from drinking too much of the corporate Kool-Aid. An objective point of view about the market opportunity, the company’s reputation, and its PR potential is very valuable.
PR agencies won’t stick to “safe” ideas. And when it comes to creative product, you don’t want them to! A good PR partner will push for risky ideas or strategies that may fly in the face of convention, or that in-house staffers might be too timid or reluctant to broach – yet, often with strong results.
PR agencies make the internal folks look good. Again, it is the nature of PR firms to constantly think of ways to delight their clients and also find ways to make the client the hero in the process. Make a good match with a firm and expect to reap benefits beyond great PR work.