Agency vs In-house PR: which side is winning the age-old battle?

The PR agency vs in-house PR debate can cause a conundrum for companies daunted by outsourcing.

Weighing up the pros and cons is easy but do you ever really get a good idea of how agencies work unless you instruct one? The alternative – recruiting an in-house public relations officer – can be a long, costly commitment.

Instead of point scoring the benefits of a PR agency vs in-house PR, look at the qualities your company needs now and to suit your three or five year plan. That way, you’ll end up with a solution that compliments the rest of your marketing communications.

Experience will be high on the in-house vs agency check list. The person or team handling your company’s reputation must know the PR world and understand your industry. Agencies can call on the experience of any team member; prospective clients should feel confident in asking for a run-down of expertise. Hiring an experienced in-house PR means hiring a more senior applicant. Their CV, interview and references are the equivalent of an agency’s proposal, pitch and client testimonials. It is natural that an agency will show off more success stories: they have creative and productive manpower.

Talent is the ingredient for successful campaigns. Agencies that have a lot of talent to offer will have the case studies to prove it. Things to look for include facts and figures supporting grand claims of great coverage results and high numbers of interactions. Applicants for in-house PR roles and agencies know your key concern is making money, be it through word of mouth campaigns, press coverage or brand recognition, so let them demonstrate how they can do that for you.

Cost doesn’t have to be a defining factor when considering initial PR agency vs in-house options. If you cannot commit, say, £25,000 of your annual budget for an in-house PR contract, a short-term agency contract or project will help to test the waters. Agencies can often be more flexible than recruits who would need to give notice on an existing job.

Accessibility is important and should be scalable. Agencies can be phased in and out of daily, weekly or monthly face-to-face contact, with meetings supplemented by reports via email, conference calls and video meetings. An in-house recruit will have great access to managers and decision makers that any agency would like to emulate but PR agencies have the benefit of distance: they won’t crowd and can be objective.

Technology is a huge factor in making PR more accountable. An agency or member of staff can produce reports using the latest online analysis and emerging tracking solutions for most PR work carried out online: e-shots, social media campaigns, web traffic can all be linked to public relations projects and compliment the wider marketing plan. The price of training and software won’t turn up on your agency bill – these are basics that competitive agencies already cover.

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